True Dialogue

Lucy Dog: Whines at door.

Me to Teen #2: It’s your turn to walk the dog.

Teen #2: I’m doing my homework.

Me: You need to help our house community.

Teen #2: But you’re not doing anything.

Me: Take the dog out.

Lucy Dog: Whines

Teen #2: Fine. But if I die of cold, night air, make sure there’s popcorn at my funeral.

Lucy is resting after chasing her bunny.
Lucy is resting after chasing her bunny.

Five on Friday

1. I am sitting on my screen porch enjoying the third day of sunshine after two weeks of gray, foggy, cold. The cold came back last night, just as son #2 and I took our places on the bleachers to watch son #1 play baseball. "Where’d the blanket go, Mom?" "I took it out of the car when the sun came back yesterday." I should have known better. At least I got two hours of intensive snuggling from son #2.
2. In the dog walking field: many ticks, volunteer asparagus, two dead frogs in large standing puddles, one muddy yellow lab.
3. Got in a nice run Wednesday afternoon when it was about 75 degrees. Lucy dog kept up nicely and was thrilled when I let her cool off in the cemetery pond. (I don’t think the residents minded, do you?) Can’t wait to start training regularly again.
4. Walked the Portland, ME "Freedom Trail," yesterday with 13 fifth, and sixth graders. The trail features important sites and people involved with helping fugitive slaves escape to Canada on the underground railroad. http://www.portlandfreedomtrail.org/ Two weeks left of teaching. I’m ready for summer.
5. Final and fifth packet deadline this Tuesday. Must complete novel revisions. Not getting far. Please send productive vibes.

Five on Sunday

1. Today was the most beautiful day. It must have been close to 80 degrees. We went to a lovely church service with fabulous music: bell ringers, choirs, a brass quartet and organ. The sermon was thoughtful and thought provoking. Chris made a lovely dinner and we ate on the screen porch. Between al fresco dining and the first Red Sox game…Spring is officially here.

2. Does anyone know how to get your puppy to actually go to the door or tell you when they need to out? We thought we had the potty training down but there seems to be some regression.

3. More deadlines coming up quickly. To do this week:

  • VCFA forum assignment
  • VCFA revisions
  • Complete VCFA paper
  • New sketches for Roar! dummy and work on Jacob Jones revisions for agent packet.

4. Reading: The Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick fabulous prose. Lyrical and riveting.

5. Weekly training totals 3/29-4/4:
Running- 7.25 miles
Swimming-1000 yards
Biking- 47.35 miles

Weeks until the Tri for the Casco Bay Y- 7
If you’d like to donate to my "Mighty Mama’s" triathlon team please donate online!

Three on Thursday


1. Please welcome, Lucy!

Lucy is a nine week old yellow Labrador who became a part of our family on Sunday. Her birthday is September 13th. She loves to chew on woodwork, pounce on footballs and soccer balls, and snuggle in your lap for some serious loving. Lucy is learning to love the warmth of being a house dog but is still learning to only pee outside.

It only took a moment for us to fall in love with Lucy but of course it will take a lifetime of training and love to make Lucy a well-mannered member of our family. I’m pretty tuckered out from a week of night time bathroom breaks. It is like having a newborn again, but one that can run away pretty quickly.

2. Because of travel issues, my parents are arriving this evening with my hubby (who has been away this first week of puppy parenting). They will stay through the Thanksgiving weekend. Did I mention that all my energy this week has gone to this puppy and my human children. The house is a complete wreck. School paperwork and projects cover my kitchen counters, flies have made their way into the boy’s bathroom and died– littering the floor, My kid’s rooms are trashed. The office, where my sister-in-law is suppose to sleep next Wednesday is covered in books for my MFA. The laundry is done and has been wrinkling in the baskets that I’ve been dumping on my bed to fold and then shoving back into the basket at night when I finally hit the hay at after a day of puppy care. In addition to the messy house, my oil just ran out. Not entirely unexpected mind you. I tried to get oil last week but they didn’t take my check which has our Maryland address still. I found someone who will deliver this morning.

3. AND… I’m supposed to be prepping for my trip to NYC for the Jewish Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference this weekend. I have to pack and get color copies made of illustrations. It would be nice if I could update my portfolio a bit too. I should stick new mailing labels on my postcards too.

So you see, it is quite busy here. Hectic might be a better word. Frustrating? No, exhausting.

Six On Saturday

1. We are hanging the Maine Illustrators’ Collective Classics Reimagined show on Monday, November 2nd. If you’d like to come and/or attend the opening, here is the information:

2. If you won’t be able to make it and would like to see my piece here it is:

From Aesop’s, The Fox and The Crow.

3. If you are wondering why I’m up early it’s because I have so much work to do on my VCFA packet. I always seem to get to this point. I read for too long then I’m crunched for writing time.  (I know, Mona. Six am isn’t early but I’ve been up and working since four.) I needed an extension last time and I’m set on not asking for another one. Feeling a little anxious.
4. I just bought a wide format Epson printer with the money I’m earning from my illustration work for hire. Very exciting but it is an investment.
5. Even though I just dealt with a disappointing rejection on the job scene, I’m applying for yet another one. I guess that is just how it goes, but I start to wonder– between writing rejections and job rejections, how much can I take before I want to curl up and hide from the world? Perhaps it is a little like child birth though. Nature allows us to forget the pain so that we will do it all again. At least at the end of child birth you have the beautiful child. I’m ready to see the fruits of my labor on the job market. And in the children’s book industry for that matter.
6. Lucy the yellow lab puppy is coming home to our house on November 15th. She’ll be 9 weeks old and is as cute as cute can be. I’ll post pics when I get some. I only have them on my phone and don’t have a plan that allows me email them to myself. (ACK!)

A Poetry Class Plug, The Conference, and Friends

A Plug:
On May 3rd I will be teaching an all day workshop on Writing Poetry for Children through the University of Southern Maine’s Continuing education program. Check out more information about the class here. If you have any questions for me about the class I’m happy to answer them through comments. I hope to see some of you Mainers who I met at the conference!

The Conference:

Conferences are a celebration of the essence that community. This weekend, our New England SCBWI community celebrated in a big way. Five hundred fifty people on Saturday and almost 300 on Sunday, came together to learn and “Stretch their wings.” As a conference coordinator I am flying high.

When Saturday came I was braced to put out fires all day long. What would go wrong and would I be able to handle it? I worried. It turns out that I shouldn’t have worried. As Sally Reilly reminded me, all the work that you did in the 10 months leading up to the conference pays off. She was right. So many wonderful attendees stopped to tell me how much they enjoyed the conference. From workshops, to friendships, to speakers people have been so positive. It is great to read everyone’s blog this morning and hear how much fun and learning went on.

The conference is a group effort and I give huge kudos to Francine Puckly, and Janet Arden, my co-directors. The speakers, Kevin Hawkes and Laurie Halse Anderson were lovely. Down to earth and well prepared. The workshop presenters gave it their all and the volunteers kept the whole thing running behind the scene. The staff at the hotel, were fabulous as always.

I’m especially proud of the Illustrator Academy and the poster showcase. These events brought the talents and craft of illustrators, and the illustrators themselves, out of the studio and into the light.

Thanks goes to Dick Blick Art Supplies and Picture Book portfolio directory for the amazing prizes. Also, thank you to

 Laura Jacques for organizing the showcase. You will be seeing her art on the 2009 conference materials!

Brian Lies, Susan Sherman, Lita Judge and Victoria Jameison were the amazing faculty for the Illustrator Academy. I learned so much from their critiques and presentations. Mostly, I learned that as Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Drawing after drawing, after sketch, after color study, after research for reference all combine to make great illustration. Revision is not an option it is a necessity just as in writing. No one gets it right the first time. Those who I most admire, authors and illustrators, dig in deep and accept the challenge of hard work. Everyday.

In personal conference news. My critique editor requested the full manuscript of my novel.  I feel that I should whisper that instead of shouting it from the cyber-rooftop. Do not mistake this announcement as a solicitation of congratulations. Instead it is the of the acknowledgment of the challenge ahead. A happy challenge and an important step on my journey but I’ll need your support. This is the novel I started during JoNoWriMo.
Thanks Jo! 

Friends:
Speaking of support, thank you for your kind words on the passing of my dog Sam. I notice today the lack of noise in the house. No click, click of doggy nails on the wood floor, or jingling of collar as he scratches beneath his chin. I miss him and these flashes of memory will certainly stop me in my tracks from time to time. I gave myself permission not to write yesterday and to feel the grief fully. Don’t think me callus, but I’m also noticing the lack of black fur in my house and the extra time I have to enjoy the morning. Today, I am writing and working and moving forward.

Write On!

Good-bye Sam the Dog

This is not the entry I had planned for today. I’ll write about the conference and other good news tomorrow. Know that while this is a sad entry, there is much joy in my life. As we ride the roller coaster of life we never really know or control what is around the next bend.

It is with deep sadness and regret that I tell you, we had to put our dog Sam to sleep today.

Sam was probably 10 or 11 years old, and his dark blue black fur was almost completely gray at his muzzle and on his belly. Over the last six months he had grown thin loosing 30 pounds. Where once he was meaty and muscley, today he was only skin and bones. In the last 24 hours he lost control of his bowels entirely and I knew it was time. I will miss his loyalty, company, and protection.

We brought Sam home from the Edgecomb shelter in September of 1998. Already two or three years old, Sam had his share of issues. He ran off, he got into garbage, he tried to sleep on the couch at night, he was the worst mooch at the dinner table and he stole food from the counters when you turned your back on him. But Sammy loved to swim and fetch and get a good belly rub. Scratch him on his bum just above the tail, around the ears or under his front legs, and he’d be your buddy forever.

He loved cold weather, so our home in Maine was perfect for him. He’d explore the snowy landscape as I cross- country skiied nearby. This always made me think of an abstract painting that I hope to create someday– “Black dog in the snow.” It will be a black smudge on an otherwise white canvas. “Snow doggy!” I’d yell, and he’d leap through the snow, bounding over drifts. I threw snowballs that he caught and munched. He rolled over on his back and wiggled side to side taking a snow bath. Then he’d jump up and look where he’d been. It seemed that these were his doggy snow angels. 

Sam had a super sniffer. He could snif out mice, garbage and food anywhere. If something tempted Sammy’s nose, whether it was under snow, in the ground, buried in the woodpile, or in the rafters, he’d root, dig, and climb to get it. 

Sam inspired my art and writing. In “Watch that tail Sammy,” I wrote about his whacking, smacking tail that swung right at toddler eye level. Sam was great with our boys and other children who could get past the fact that he was an 80 pound big, black dog. I’ll never forget the image of Sam lying under the basinet guarding I. when we brought him home from the hospital nine years ago. 

Sam had a special relationship with my father. Whenever Dad visited, Sam stuck close to him. Sam nuzzled Dad, putting his nose on my father’s lap and pushing his hand to the top of that doggy head. My father in turn scratched and pat Sam around the scruff of the neck and around his ears. The two old men seemed to appreciate an afternoon nap in the sun and each other. 

Good-bye Sam.  

Sam update

Thank you all for your kind thoughts. I checked in with the doc today and Sam may be improving with the med cocktail they are giving him. We’ll know more tomorrow. Last night I got a full night’s sleep. The first one in a long time without cleaning up or taking Sam for many night walks.  I imagine him at the vet talking to the other dogs:

“The house is crazy without the Alpha dog (my husband). The puppies are loud and rambunctious and the bitch keeps yelling at me and the pups. I’m just happy to get a break from the stress. It was giving me diarrea!”

Hope to get real hugs at the conference in two weeks. Who’s coming?