For those who may be joining our celebration for the first time, the goal of 28 Days Later is to promote increased awareness of black authors and illustrators creating books for children and young adults. Our honorees are those who may be flying “under the radar” of book buyers, as well as those who have reached vanguard status in the literary community.
This year, we have organized our honorees into four different categories:
- Week 1: NEW VOICES – YOUNGER (creators of books for younger readers)
- Week 2: NEW VOICES – OLDER (creators of books for older readers)
- Week 3: SOCIAL JUSTICE (creators of books with themes that foster justice, empathy and/or peace)
- Week 4: INSPIRATION WEEK (authors and illustrators who have inspired members of The Brown Bookshelf team)
WEEK ONE BEGINS TODAY WITH NEW AUTHOR ANDREA J. LONEY!
Loney is new on the kidlit scene (her first title, BUNNYBEAR was released just yesterday–you can’t get any newer than that), but she won’t be wearing the newbie title for long. Her second book, the 2014 Lee & Low New Voices Award winner, TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! is due out this May…and she already has a third book on the way (read on for more details on that one).
Without further ado, we present to you on Day 1 of 28 Days Later, debut author Andrea J. Loney!
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I’d always loved reading and writing when I was a child. Words fascinated me – their many definitions, their origins, even the way they felt in my mouth as I spoke them. And of course, I loved stories. At the age of seven, I decided that someday I would become a writer.
In college, I studied to be a poet, a playwright, and a screenwriter. Then I moved to Los Angeles to work in film and television, often as a writer. But I always wanted to be an author. And I dreamed of writing the kind of picture books that might stay in a child’s heart forever.
Eventually, I took some online classes in writing children’s books, but it wasn’t until I joined the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) that my dream of becoming a children’s author really came into focus. I joined critique groups online and in person, attended SCBWI events, and even joined a competition by Julie Hedlund called 12×12, where the participants write 12 picture books in 12 months and submit them to agents.
Once I got into the habit of writing and revising so many manuscripts, things took off. By the fall of my first year of 12×12, I’d written the manuscript for TAKE A PICURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE!, a picture book biography of the famous Harlem Renaissance era photographer. Two months after I finished it, that book won the Lee & Low New Voices Award and will be published in May of 2017. The next year, through 12×12, I met my ever-awesome agent, Jill Corcoran, and sold another story, BUNNYBEAR, which just came out yesterday! Last year a third book sold, and will be published in 2019. We also have a few manuscripts out on submission. And I’m still in 12×12, writing new picture books.
When I was first starting out, I was inspired by classic children’s literature like the work of Ezra Jack Keats, Maurice Sendak, and Hans Christian Anderson. I adored the works of Faith Ringgold, Virginia Hamilton, and the glorious illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon, Brian Pinkney, and Tom Feelings. Now I read several picture books a week, and I’m inspired by almost all of them in some way or another. But these days my work is often inspired by the children I encounter in class or while volunteering at a Saturday reading program. These little people lead such fascinating lives and I’d love to see more of their stories out there in the wider world of children’s’ literature.
My ideas seem to come from everywhere, but once I’ve found a story that simply won’t let me sleep at night, I roll it over in my mind until it takes a cohesive form with a beginning, middle, and end. Before I write anything down, I try to compose as much of the text in my head as possible and to recite the phrases over and over again until it feels right. Then I write the words down in a notebook – I write first drafts by hand so I can slow down and physically connect with each word. After a few days, I rewrite the story, and when it feels ready, I type it up on my computer. Once I’ve revised the story to the best of my ability, I send it to a critique group for feedback. Then I take it to another critique group and sometimes another until I feel like the story is at its best. Once I can’t find anything else to fix in the manuscript, I send it to my agent, and then she and I will go back and forth on the text, making changes until she feels it is ready to send out.
While I often work in my lovely home office, dubbed The Imaginarium, I write pretty much anywhere — the dining room, the kitchen table, the kitchen counter, the living room couch, mall parking lots, park benches by the ocean, coffee shops, or the faculty lounge in my college. And I write on computers, my phone, notebooks, post-it notes, junk mail, or whatever is handy when an idea strikes. I even have a waterproof notepad and pencil in the shower.
Under the Radar
Hmm… of the writers of color I know, they are already on your radar. Jessixa Bagley tells deeply resonant stories featuring adorable little animals. I see Rasheed Wallace and Saddler Ward’s HONEYDEW & MARYLU picture books at many local California book events. I’m sure that the moment I turn this in I’ll think of ten more people!
The State of the Industry
There are so many more stories out there than we are seeing on the shelves right now. I volunteer as a reader in a school with mostly Hispanic and black students, and it is rare that we read a book together about someone who looks like any of us. And when I go to children’s book publishing events, I don’t often see many other people of color represented as writers, illustrators, editors, agents, or other publishing professionals. The bottom line is that people of color have entire libraries of evocative, meaningful, and unforgettable stories to share right in our communities, but if we don’t find a way to tell them ourselves, they may never be shared with the larger world. We simply need to get more stories about children of color into the pipeline and on to the shelves. And not just “issue” stories, historical stories, or “urban” stories. Our tales run the gamut from the past to the future, from literary, to comedy, drama, graphic novels, epic fantasy, adventure, romance, science fiction, and beyond.
So whenever I work with students of any age, from age five to age 85, I tell them that I am an author, and if they also want to be an author, to just start writing. I tell them to write the story they want to tell, not just what’s already out there. I tell them to share their work and don’t stop until someone hears what they have to say. Because our words are important. And our stories matter.
The Buzz on BUNNYBEAR
“A sweet story of friendship and acceptance. Whimsical, cheery illustrations tell the story of a bear who looks like most bears. But when he is alone, he bounces, wiggles his nose, and nibbles on strawberries. He calls himself Bunnybear. The other bears don’t understand him and deem him odd. So he leaves home and eventually finds himself looking down a rabbit hole. Even though they are “tiny and fluffy and bouncy, like Bunnybear’s heart,” the rabbits find him as odd as the bears did and tell him to leave. Alone and bewildered—he doesn’t feel like a bear, but he doesn’t look like a rabbit—he is at a loss. Then he meets a rabbit. Only this rabbit is more than a rabbit: she looks like a rabbit but feels like a bear—she is Grizzlybun! And so starts a friendship of two who look one way on the outside but feel another way on the inside. Unlike many stories of differentness in which the characters just want to fit in, here the characters are happy to be who they are—it is others who must come to accept them…A nice addition to the identity and acceptance bookshelf.” — Kirkus Reviews
“In a story about sticking to what you know to be true, even if it goes against social norms, debut author Loney introduces a bear who feels most like himself when he’s doing the sorts of things that bunnies do…Bunnybear’s fellow bears don’t understand him, nor do a warren of bunnies—except for one named Grizzlybun, who declares herself a bear…Working in what looks like a combination of painting and digital techniques, newcomer Saldaña creates an appealing cast of wild animals and an equally inviting woodland landscape, and she doesn’t ignore the humorousness of a bear who prefers hopping to stomping or a bunny whose inner ferociousness outstrips her small size. But despite the lighthearted tone, Loney’s story has important things to say about identity and acceptance, and is valuable both as entertainment and a conversation-starter.” — Publishers Weekly
Visit Andrea at AndreaJLoney.com!
It’s Father’s Day! What better way to celebrate my dad than to brag about him on the internet? I literally can’t think of one.
So, as far as dads go, I got hella fucking lucky. My dad, henceforth known as DMG (Dreamy Mr Gootee, his self-appointed moniker), is not the man from whose loins I came. (I promise to never discuss my dads’ loins ever again.) My mom and my bio-dad broke up when I was a tiny kid, and DMG stepped in and took over dadding duties. If I say so myself, he did a damn fine job. I mean, here I am: alive, employed, and able to use a computer. I do not think if I had a child they would end up any of those things, especially if it was some dumb kid I didn’t even make.
DMG never acted “step”, and always went full-dad. Even though we share no genetic markers, I sometimes find myself wheezing as I laugh, and think “why is DMG’s laugh coming out of my face?” Sometimes I sloppily write something down in ballpoint pen, and it’s his “n”s that show up on my notepad. When I compliment Zach’s dinner by saying, “Damn, this is the best one of these I’ve ever had!”, he replies, “Okay, DMG!”, because that is one of my dad’s favorite food compliments to pay.
I could go on and on but instead I made a list, since I did the same thing on Mother’s Day and I want the internet to know I love both my parents equally, except when one of them is trying to ground me.
- he is very tall, taller than all the other dads who now look small and weak
- he is very strong and can lift you up, upside-down, so that you can pretend to walk on the ceiling, at least until you’re 7 or so
- you can tell when he’s joking because he uses his “tricky voice”
- he is not great at wrapping presents, but IS great at keeping his poker face steady, so that Christmas that he wrapped up a brand new ball by simply typing a ribbon around it, you were almost convinced it might be something else by the way he kept being like, “nuh uh! It’s not a ball”, but with the assistance of tricky voice you had your answer
- He is the best at hiding Easter baskets, Valentine’s Fairy gifts, and all other things that need to be hidden.
- Sure, he doesn’t do hair as well as Mom, but you look fine! SERIOUSLY
- He will cook you and your four best friends a pre-prom dinner, and tell everyone how pretty they look
- He will buy you a bouquet for your very first period, but not stick around too long or say too much stuff and make it weird
- All the kids at the pool wish he was their dad, as he is great for climbing on in the 5′ end of the pool, and kids are not yet 5′ tall
- His reactions can generally be summed up into “WHAT THE????” and spit-takes
- He will definitely spit-take if you accidentally serve him sweet tea
- Which happens a lot because of his habitual “UNNNNNNNNsweet tea” order, which waitstaff often hear as “Um…sweet tea”
- He does not like coffee, not even coffee ice cream or a Frappuccino
- He makes the best Dilly Dilly Chicken Sandwiches, Dad’s Special Spuds, Tube Sandwiches, and any damn creamy cheesy pasta you want
- He is the best at nicknames, coming up with not only “DMG”, but “Short Hair Boy”, (the name given to my 9th grade boyfriend) and “Pierced Ears” (my own nickname when I was 6 and visited Claire’s to get my first earrings)
- He will pick you up at the movie theater after your concession stand shift every night, even though it is much past his bedtime
- He will always be proud of you, forever, even when you do dumb stuff
- He’s probably ready to go sit in his chair, right at this very moment
Goth women are open to the idea of multiple partners at a time, and to them these sexual activities are not out of the ordinary. Although goth woman have more of a choice, this is very similar to women who engage in prostitution because they also have more than one sex partner at a time.
Alternate title: Electric Bombaloo. I don’t think I named the first bath bomb review I did, but henceforth the series will be known as Bomb-Azz Reviews. If I remember to do that. I could also come up with a better name. Time will tell.
Last night I wanted to wash the funk of the day off me while simultaneously generating blog fodder, so it was the perfect opportunity to bust out another bath bomb from my Lush haul. I reached in the sack and grabbed the first ball I got (heyo!), which turned out to be The Experimenter. I bought it because it’s colorful, and I am an easy mark.
From looking at this nugget of bath-time fun, I expected it to be scented of bubble gum or erasers due to its #2 pencil color scheme. In reality, it seemed to be more like sandalwood or patchouli. At first the scent was a fun surprise, though it eventually became too heavy. I tend to enjoy strongly-scented things but this sucker filled up my whole entire nose with its woodsy fragrance. I think next time I’d just use half of the bomb. The ingredients include tonka and vanilla beans and I’m not the Bean Queen 2016 or anything, but I really didn’t notice any vanilla-y sweetness and would have pegged this as more of a campfire scent than anything else. In addition to the generous scent, this bomb was amazingly colorful, full of glitter, and super moisturizing. I’d recommend it for wintertime use, or if you just really enjoy smelling like a glittery beautiful fireplace. It’s worth it any time of year for the Instagram material, though. This thing was truly beautiful, and I took photos for an embarrassingly long time.
I tried to switch my part today to see if it made my hair behave better, but no. My locks are still lacking, and what even is this color? Think I could pull off a shaved head? Without crying? Here is yet another dress (from ModCloth, same style as this one) I’ve had in the closet for months and never seem to wear, so I’m sharing it with you, my beloved blogfriends. The problem is, these little flowers have green and red dots in them, and wearing red and green together makes me feel like Christmas, and the dots are so small you can’t see them from far away but I know they’re there so I want to match. Also neither color goes that well with purple, so accessorizing is a challenge. I picked a green belt (from a different ModCloth dress) and some similarly-hued Swedish Hasbeens, and some older earrings from Target that I hardly ever wear. I feel real comfy, but not very cute, but I don’t have to look at me, I only have to be me, so it’s not really a problem. Sucks for y’all though.
Okay goodbye, I get to eat a sandwich now.
Y’all all I really want is a big ass iced latte, but I already walked by West Elm and my boyfriend from yesterday was working so I know I can’t go there but I WANT TO. I am chugging an infinity of water instead, and it is not nearly as delicious, nor does it contain any energizing drugs. I had a cold brew coffee earlier today but because I made it myself it didn’t seem indulgent or fun. I should probably work on being one of those DIY people who thinks making things is cool and exciting, but I only think things are cool/exciting when they are done for me, by someone I give money to. That’s the American Way, I think.
I am doing this hogblog on my lunch break so I’ll make it quick and only about clothes. Nothing else happened today, except Maegan and I went back to the Merc and it was perfect and delicious as always.
In Outfits of Years Past, we have this lil’ number. Mid-May must be the time of year I decide to let all my flabby flesh hang out. I’m sorry/you’re welcome.
Dress was from Ross, shoes from Ebay, belt from Cato, earrings from Target. I think I actually still own all of these items and have linked to all those places before, plus you know how to Google.
So as you may have noticed, I tend not to repeat outfits. This is a bad habit I picked up when I started doing outfit photos, and it got worse when I was a Gywnnie Bee member. I want to try to get better at doing wardrobe remixes or whatever flashy thing people call the innovative notion of wearing your clothes more than once, so today I sort of tried it.
I’ve had this skirt (ModCloth, natch) for a while now but rarely wear it. Black and white are two hues I have no idea what to do with, and I tend to avoid them. The top came from Zulily, and has been sitting in the closet with the intent of being paired with this skirt since at least December, but I kept avoiding it because of my hella VBO. But fuck it! It’s Friday! You all know I’m fat, it’s not like a secret you only realize when I wear a certain type of clothing. So I slapped these two garments on, topped ’em off with my Cats Like Us belt, threw on my Hasbeens and some plastic earrings and hit the road. Then I saw a cute puppy and made this face, but the puppy was gone and I never did get to pet it.😦
My vote tally is holding steady at 250, so I guess I’m not going to be a famous model. Which is a real shame because writing words is a lot harder than just being cute.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting stories gathered from the Pediatrics Department of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Obviously these are not going to be easy stories to read. These are war stories. The treatment of cancer can be nearly as violent as the condition itself, and even the doctors will frame their efforts in terms of warfare. But the fight against pediatric cancer is uniquely tragic because the battlefield is the body of a child. So these are definitely war stories. But as with every war, there are heroes. You’ll meet the amazing doctors, nurses, and researchers who have committed their lives to this fight. You’ll meet the moms and dads who refuse to crumble while living out their greatest fear. And most importantly, you’ll meet the reason that everyone is fighting, and the greatest warriors of all—the kids. So yes, these are war stories. But this is also the story of humanity’s bold response to the greatest injustice of nature. And as we learn these stories, we’ll be raising money to play our own small part in the war.
As many of you know, I delivered my first child just 25 weeks into my pregnancy and spent a subsequent 156 days in the NICU. (You can read her birth story here.) When we found out that we were expecting again five years later, I was incredibly fearful of another extremely early delivery. I’m so thrilled to tell you that this month we welcomed healthy baby boy into our family. This is his story.
I spent most of this pregnancy on bedrest for incompetent cervix and was receiving weekly progesterone shots to help keep me pregnant but I still started having contractions in the middle of my second trimester. I ended up in the hospital on a few different occassions to stop contractions and I started on a daily medication to help keep them at bay. I was thrilled to make it to 36 weeks, when all of my medication was discontinued and bedrest was lifted. While my due date was May 1st, I was fairly certain that I was going to have a baby pretty soon after going off the medication.
So when I went to my 36 week appointment I was pretty surprised that I was not already in labor.
OR SO I THOUGHT.
The doctor asked me about my contractions and I told her that they were stronger since going off the meds but that I had been timing them and they weren’t regular. I even had instructions to go to the hospital much sooner than the normal intervals they give people based on how quickly Scarlette’s birth had progressed but according to the nifty little app that I had installed on my phone they still seemed erratic.
“So maybe I’ll have a baby next week” I said to the doctor while she was all up in my business.
“Yeah, you’re about four and a half centimeters dilated. We’re having a baby today” she responded.
And then I was all “WHAT? WHY DON’T I EVER EVEN KNOW WHEN I’M IN LABOR?”
That’s right. Remember how I had no idea that I was in labor with Scarlette? Apparently that is my thing. Personally, I’d prefer a different forte, like maybe being a good cook or the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But no, my thing is walking around in active labor for days without being at all aware of it.
By the time I got to the hospital my contractions were starting to feel a bit more regular. They hooked me to a monitor and I told the nurse each time I felt one, guessing that I was having contractions every ten minutes or so. J hesitantly replied, “Um, I’m not sure but those lines look like you’re having way more than that. They’re all going all the way to the top.”
That’s when the doctor came in and said that actually I was having contractions every two to three minutes and they needed to do the c-section right away.
And then I was like “I’m sorry, baby doctor say what?!”
I literally could not feel over half my contractions. Apparently I have “painless contractions and dilation” and so all of the conscious effort I was making to be really aware of my body this time around did not even matter. Which, on one hand made me feel better about my birth experience with Scarlette in that it really wasn’t anything that I missed. I just simply can’t feel myself in labor until I’m pretty far along. With Scarlette I did not feel a single contraction until I was eight centimeters dilated.
So given all that, can I just tell you how happy I am that I did not deliver this baby AT MY HOUSE?
At that point some of the NICU nurses came down to see us and wish us luck. I kissed Scarlette goodbye and then J began reading girl’s names off his phone as we wheeled down the hall because we still hadn’t picked one. We were totally prepared for this baby, obviously.
After I had the spinal my blood pressure kept dropping and setting off alarms, which had me feeling a bit nervous, so I was grateful for J and the kind anesthesiologist who kept making me laugh. (Sadly, here is where I leave out the funniest part of our whole birth story on account of how I need material for my next book, which I am currently in the middle of writing. True story. I like to call this “building anticipation.”)
We had decided not to find out the sex of the baby and can I just say that managing to do that while having over a dozen ultrasounds is probably the most willpower I have ever exerted in my entire life?
They let my husband be the one to announce it so they lifted the baby up and J, who was convinced we were having a girl, said “Oh wow! It’s a boy!” Everyone cheered and then I started crying and the anesthesiologist wiped away my tears for me, on account of how my arms were strapped down and all.
I am so glad that we waited to find out the sex of the baby because that was such a fun moment. In a pregnancy that was incredibly tumultuous, that will stand out as one of my very favorite memories.
He weighed six pounds, seven ounces and we named him Ridley Jackson.
They took Ridley over to be assessed by the NICU team and I was so grateful that Scarlette’s former nurses were the ones who took care of him immediately after birth. I felt much more peaceful and calm knowing that he was in their hands. They had told me it was a possibility that they might take him to the NICU for observation since he wasn’t 37 weeks so when they handed him to my husband we could not stop marveling over the fact that he was able to stay with us.
We wanted Scarlette to feel very special so we decided to let her meet Ridley first and then get to be the one who introduced him to her grandparents as well as announce his name/gender. When J brought her in she ran to me and asked “So is it a brother?!,” kissed us both and then promptly lost interest in favor of exploring the buttons on the hospital bed.
We called our family in a bit later and she bounced up and down as she yelled “It’s a BOY! And his name is Ridley Jackson! And GUESS WHAT?! He eats from Mommy’s BEWBIES!”
(Y’all just wait until I tell you about the first time she helped me change a boy diaper.)
Everyone told me that a repeat c-section is a breeze but I was a hot mess afterwards. That is a polite way of saying that despite copious amounts of Zofran, I vomited for 6 straight hours after delivery. Except that I didn’t want to let go of my baby so J stood next to me and would quickly whisk him off my chest when I would get sick and then tuck him back in while handing me cold cloths. I’m pretty sure he’s the one who earned the push present in this scenario.
Early the next morning, before the dawn broke across the sky, J slid in next to me and I leaned my head into his shoulder as I cradled our son. “I’m just so happy” I told him through tears.
I didn’t know that having a baby could feel like this.
When I had Scarlette I loved her immediately and intensely. But I was just as intensely flooded with fear as day after day we faced the very real possibility that she might die. That marked my entire motherhood experience for a very long time, the way love and sorrow intertwined.
I didn’t know that having a baby could unleash such a wave of overwhelming, unabashed joy. I have never been as purely happy as I was the day that J and I curled up on a hospital bed to hold both of our children.
I am hesitant to call this experience redemptive, because I never needed to redeem what I went through with Scarlette. It is our story, she and I, and I was perfectly content with the chapters we were writing.
But this unexpected blessing has been such a beautiful plot twist.
I am enamored by all of the little things about new motherhood that I did not get to experience the first time around. Things like the sweet sounds of tiny newborn coo-ing, which were stifled behind a ventilator five years ago. Or the ability to nurse instead of threading down a feeding tube. Or rolling over to see him next to me at night.
And the freedom to mother my baby.
I can touch him whenever I want. I don’t have to wait for a ten-minute touch-time period every four hours. I don’t have to share diaper changes with a nurse taking vitals. I don’t have to worry that a feather-soft stroke of my finger might tear his tender skin. I don’t have to leave him behind in the hospital night after night for months on end. I can keep him tucked close to my heart and brush a kiss over his downy head anytime that I like.
The day we went home a nurse wheeled me through the hospital corridors, down unfamiliar halls that I had never passed through before because my previous route had always led me straight to the doors of the NICU. In the atrium Canon in D played over the speakers as I waited for my husband to collect us, the same song that had played almost ten years earlier as he waited for me to come down the aisle.
It felt like an anthem.
And then I walked out of the hospital, this time with my son in my arms.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth… I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19
*all photos courtesy of Ashley Mushegan Photography
"You may be done with the past, but the past isn't done with you."
I returned to West Texas this week for that most compelling of homecoming reasons, a funeral. My Aunt Kay died last week. She was married to my father's brother, but she was also my mother's childhood friend. The four of them were the closest of friends, and that closeness applied to all of the cousins as well. We functioned like an immediate family; all of my childhood memories include my cousin/best friend, as well as her cooler-than-cool dad and her impossibly kind and good-hearted mom. When Uncle Tommy died in 1979 and our families drifted apart, something cracked in my family. When my father died eleven years later, that something shattered altogether. I don't think we ever entirely recovered.
It happens, I suppose. You put your head down and you live your life, and then one day something terrible happens and you realize that you've let things slip out of your hands that never should have been treated so casually. I loved my Aunt Kay, as I loved and idolized my Uncle Tommy and as I adored my cousin. My memories of them are almost entirely from childhood, from a time so long ago that it feels slightly unreal in my memory, and from a place so unlike anywhere else in the world that it is almost impossible to describe without sounding like I'm making it up. West Texas in the 1970s really does represent a world that was very different from whatever past you probably know.
The time of my childhood is remote. The place, less so. Returning to Odessa is always something of an emotional shake up for me, but now, in the context of returning to embrace not just family but the family and the life of the past, it really is overwhelming. I sometimes turn to music to put it in perspective. Not the popular music of my youth, or the country music that was always present when my father was around. I actually associate home with specific classical pieces. Aaron Copland's celebrated Americana, for instance, like the slow movements of Billy the Kid or Rodeo or even the very end of Appalachian Spring. Big, lonely prairie landscapes in sound, albeit a little cliched.
Growing up there, I always understood something about Odessa, or any town out in the desert, and it's something of which I'm still very aware. Experiencing that part of the country isn't really about understanding the towns, not even larger ones like Odessa or Midland. West Texas gets under your skin when you drive outside the city limits, and not necessarily all that far, either. As soon as I was old enough to drive, I would sometimes head out to the edge of town, where imported and pampered green gave way to mottled brown. I'd eventually pull off the farm roads and follow a dirt road until I found an open spot where the mesquite bushes had been cleared, usually to accommodate a pumpjack. I'd lay on the hood of my car and listen to the rhythmic wheezing of the well, and I'd watch the sun set in a mess of vivid color and take in the sight of the stars sprawled out across the sky. Sometimes I'd see jackrabbits racing through the brush as I approached, and once I even saw a rattlesnake lazily twisting across the road in front of me. But mostly it was just silence and solitude, bigger than anything I've ever experienced since. The daunting but quiet snows of Michigan, the rolling waves of Long Island Sound, the towering Redwoods of northern California, some of my favorite places in the world, but none could quite compare to the almost oppressive silence of the West Texas desert.
When I'm not there, when I'm living my life in various cities as I have since I left Odessa at eighteen, I still feel the desert of West Texas. When I'm in large groups of people or in busy parts of the city, surrounded by beautiful chaos, part of me is still back home in wind-tossed solitude. Back in my youth with my family, including all those who have slipped away in some way or another, I didn't understand it, I don't think. I didn't really hear the weird, loud silence of West Texas.
My father did, I know that now. He longed to get out into the wilder parts, and we did, often. My father and I had a complicated relationship, as he had with most of our family, and I didn't always fully appreciate trips to the lake or the camping excursions to places like Fort Davis or Big Bend. But I guess I was soaking it in just the same, because I think I'd give just about anything to go back. Not just to the place, but to all of it, with my mom and my dad and his cool older brother who never got to be old in my memories, with my own siblings and my cousin, and with my aunt, to whom I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say goodbye to any of the ones I lost; my family hasn't had a surplus of lingering hospital deaths. Just unexpected phone calls with sad voices and then hurriedly packed suitcases. And memories, played out against that huge desert, always present.
That looming sadness comes not from tragedy or hardship, although that desert has certainly known plenty of both, as my own family knows all too well. I think it comes from that very timelessness, that sense like nowhere else in the world I've ever seen, that this world has rolled along for millions of years, and our presence won't matter for more than a blink. A few jackrabbits will hear us and scatter, and maybe our footsteps will startle a few horny toads (if we can even find them anymore), but that's about it.
And yet, those of us who lived there and those who have gone back to that receiving earth are a part of the West Texas desert. I've known so many people who have visited it and who simply don't understand how anyone could feel fondness and that low-burning homesickness for such a hard, barren place. Those of us who grew up there joke about its remoteness and its flatness and the rough people who live there, people with whom we like to pretend we have nothing in common but from whom in reality we are separated only by years and experiences.
I hear it all the time, and I've said it to myself many times over the years.
"How could you ever live in such a place?"
And then that ancient voice whispers, "How could you think you could ever truly leave?"
Angela Lansbury’s Positive Moves
Submitter: My grandparents absolutely loved Murder She Wrote. They have been gone now for over 10 years. I saw and picked this up at my small suburban library out of nostalgia. When I showed it to my library clerks, none knew who she was until I told them she was Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. This book is now 25 years old. Maybe it’s time to let it go?
Holly: Yes, it is, but I’m kind of surprised that Angela Lansbury isn’t better known than that. She was 66 when this book was written, and that’s probably the demographic for which it was intended. People in their mid-60s today are very likely to know who Angela Lansbury is, so if this circulates, what the heck – keep it! If not, or if you need the space, it’s probably a safe weed. There are some fantastic pictures in this thing! See below!
More Positive Moves:
Schuyler's evening was complicated. That much I can say. It was complicated for all the reasons that are obvious, and for all the ones you never think about. It was complicated because she looks like any other fifteen-year-old girl dressed to the nines at a high school dance, and it's complicated because she's not like any other girl there, or most places. It's complicated for the things she understands about her peer relationships, and it's complicated for the nuances that escape her. Her feelings about boys are complicated, and her inability to adequately express or process those feelings are also very, very complicated.
“Yesterday I found a penny in the park, and now it’s in my pocket.”
Most people associate grief, especially complicated grief, as something only experienced after the death of a loved one. However, many people fail to understand that complicated grief isn’t just about death. In an article entitled Complicated Grief, the Mayo Clinic states: “While normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over a few […]
The NFL had just finished sweeping Adrian Peterson under the rug yesterday when barely a few hours later Jonathan Dwyer was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife (twice) and 18-month-old son because it was only a matter of time before Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson formed their own fucked-up Voltron. TMZ Sports reports:
According to police, the 25-year-old allegedly roughed up his wife at their home in Phoenix on July 21st and again on July 22nd.
Shortly after the incidents, cops say, Dwyer’s wife left the state with their child.
Cops list 2 victims — a 27-year-old female (his wife) and their 18-month-old child.
Amazingly, the Cardinals immediately suspended him instead of waiting for pressure from corporate sponsors who have to be going, “Goddammit, AGAIN?!” by now. That said, let’s make sure we still have a rational dialog about this because football is serious business. Okay, so we all agree beating his wife is wrong (provided there’s video), but was the one-year-old perhaps in need of a whooping? Because we should probably take that into consideration before condemning a grown 25-year-old professional athlete for physically assaulting an infant. Hitting an adult is one thing which is why we have crimes against it, but don’t nobody tell no one how to raise their kids. All clear? Good. Now let’s move on to Stat Man which is what I’m calling this special brand of commenter that popped in our threads under the name “teddy r” while someone by the name of “GMAN” made essentially the same bullshit argument on TMZ’s Dwyer story:
And still compared to the national average of men in the same age range, NFL players commit far far less domestic violence and overall crime. TMZ would never report this because it doesn’t jive with their agenda. But the stats are out there for anyone to see.
If you’re scratching your head, that’s because this shitbird is literally arguing that because the NFL has a lower crime rate than the national average, the media should really be reporting on how awesome football players are instead of focusing on the times they finally manage to get charged with domestic violence and/or child abuse. It’s not like these guys are ducking arrests skewing those statistics or held up as role models by schools, parents, and hundreds of every other institution in America that over-glorifies sports, so let’s let ‘em off the hook for beating the shit out of women and children. They seem like good people.
In this delightful new picture book series from British author and illustrator William Bee, Stanley the hamster is very busy--building houses, working at a garage, even running a farm.
In Stanley the Builder, Stanley is building a house for his friend Myrtle the mouse. He'll need his orange bulldozer, his yellow digger, and his green crane. Step by step, he prepares the land and then builds the house. Together with his friend Charlie, he finishes the project by painting the house in Myrtle's favorite colors--red, white, and blue--before returning home for supper, a bath, and bedtime.
In this series, Bee uses very simple vocabulary and minimal text together with very appealing digitally-created images to craft a story that is equally appropriate for two distinct audiences: toddlers/preschoolers and beginning readers.
There are so many things to like about this book, but first and foremost are the illustrations, with their clean black outlines, flat bright colors, and simple shapes (not to mention adorable hamsters...) Bee's U.S. publisher for this series, Peachtree Publishers, has kindly provided some artwork so The Fourth Musketeer's readers can get a better sense for Bee's unique artistic style. I was especially interested to note that Bee trained as a designer (check out his quirky website, which gives little information on his books but tells you all sorts of interesting trivia about his passions for vintage cars and the Queen). His design flair can be seen in everything from the endpapers (see first image below) to the font chosen for the text.
While this series is a sure-fire winner with toddlers and preschoolers, it's also ideal for beginning readers, with simple sentences and minimal vocabulary. Even with the limited vocabulary, Bee uses correct words for different tools and parts of the house, such as "shingles" for the roof, thus providing a rich use of words for the earliest readers. The book will also allow young readers to practice sequencing, since the steps for building a house are clearly delineated, and they can even re-tell the story using just the pictures as well.
For more on Stanley, please see the following blog tour stops from earlier this week:
"What happened to your arm?"
"I was walking down the stairs and looking at the stars."
“My grandmother always told me: ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re crippled, blind, or crazy. All this world cares about is how you survive. As long as you don’t do drugs or go to jail, you’re gonna be fine.’”
“What do you mean by: ‘The world only cares about how you survive?’”
“The only thing people care about is if you’re working, and if you’re paying your taxes. I worked for the city for six years. During the time that I was working, I was Mr. Matthew Phillips. The moment that I wasn’t able to work anymore, I became a social security number.’”
This is the BLURBOMAT feed
I don’t know how he did it, but this is an amazing piece of writing in the face of the worst news a parent could get regarding their own health. Sending all the best energy I have to Oren and his family. Cancer | A Blogger and a Father: “”
We’re huge fans of sweet potatoes at our house. And muffins. And Indian food.
When I saw this muffin recipe and noticed it had garam masala in it, I made a weird face. That’s the honest truth.
If you’re not familiar with Indian spices, garam masala is a spice blend commonly used in curries and other Indian dishes. Not something you’d find in a muffin, that’s for sure.
It sounded odd to me, but I really, really wanted to try it. (Story of my cooking life, much to my kids’ dismay.)
I won over all three of my picky little girls with these muffins, though! Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins, submitted by Tasty Kitchen member Kristin, are an exotic spin on a simple sweet potato muffin. They’re not only gluten-free, but they’re grain-free as well and easily made dairy-free!
And they have chocolate chips. Maybe that’s why they liked them so much?
OK, let’s gather ingredients. You’ll need cold, mashed sweet potatoes, almond flour, real maple syrup, nut butter (I used almond), chocolate chips, cinnamon, cocoa powder, garam masala, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract.
Here’s my garam masala. You can find it in most grocery stores nowadays in the spice section. I ordered mine online a while back and have been refilling this bottle with a homemade blend.
First crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and loosen them up with a fork.
Add the sweet potatoes, nut butter, and maple syrup.
Mix it up until you get something that resembles pumpkin pie filling. Speaking of pumpkin, you could totally use canned pumpkin in place of sweet potatoes in this! Just add an extra splash or two of maple syrup.
Add the almond flour and the rest of the dry ingredients.
Mix it well, and then fold the chocolate chips into the batter. The nice thing about not using wheat flour is that you don’t have to worry as much about over-mixing and ending up with cone-head muffins!
Scoop the batter into muffin molds. I used a silicone muffin pan, but you can use any type you like. I would recommend using paper liners if you don’t use a silicone pan so they come out easier. And in one piece.
Throw them in the oven …
… and out they come! I’ve consistently gotten 11 muffins out of this batch, and I’ve also double and tripled this recipe before with success. They also freeze and reheat nicely!
These tasty little grain-free morsels have become a staple in our muffin collection! I thought the spices blended beautifully with the sweet potatoes. And the chocolate chips were a nice touch. (They usually are.)
1. I omitted the yogurt to make them dairy free. Because it was only one tablespoon, I didn’t think it would make a big difference if I left it out.
2. Garam masala is a potent blend, and after making this recipe several times, I decided to cut the amount down by two-thirds. Any more than a 1/2 teaspoon gave the muffins a strange, “am I eating curry or a muffin” flavor. Perhaps my spice blend is more potent because I make it myself? Try it and see what you think!
A healthy and gluten free baked good that’s perfect for fall.
- 2 whole Eggs
- 1 cup Sweet Potato Puree (fresh Is Best, Or Canned)
- ¼ cups Creamy Peanut Butter
- 1 Tablespoon Plain Greek Yogurt
- 3 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup
- 1 cup Almond Meal
- 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
- 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
- 1-½ teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon Cocoa Powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ½ cups Chocolate Chips Or Cacao Chips
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the two eggs with a fork until they are a bit frothy.
3. Stir in sweet potato puree, peanut butter, yogurt and maple syrup.
4. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the chocolate/cacao chips. Once all the dry ingredients are combined stir in the chips.
5. Line a 12-count standard size muffin pan with muffin liners (I used silicone muffin liners, which I love), and fill each muffin tin. These muffins expand some, but not a lot, so you can fill them almost to the top.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I rotate the pan once, halfway through the cooking. Remove pan from oven and set on a rack.
7. Let muffins cool in the pan before serving.
Be sure to check out Natalie’s own beautiful food blog, Perrys’ Plate, where you can see her growing collection of lovely recipes. There’s always something new to see there. Go visit now!
Women's History Month Book Review: Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holliday and the Dog Who Loved Her, by Amy Novesky (Harcourt Children's Books, 2013)
Amy Novesky's most recent picture book, Mister and Lady Day, an ode to jazz great Billie Holiday and her pet dogs, just arrived at my library in time for Women's History Month.
This is Amy's fourth book on prominent female figures in cultural history; she has also penned Me, Frida (on artist Frida Khalo), Georgia in Hawaii (on artist Georgia O'Keefe), Imogen (on photographer Imogen Cunningham). She is currently working on a picture book on sculptor Louise Bourgeois.
Billie Holiday's tragic life. which included working as a prostitute, living in a workhouse with her mother, drug addiction, a prison sentence, and more, might not seem like a natural fit for a picture book for young children, and indeed, this side of Holiday's life does not appear in Novesky's book. Novesky focused instead on Holiday's love for her many dogs, and in particular for her boxer named Mister. Love for a dog, of course, is a theme that children identify easily with, as do many adults (OK, I'm a sucker for a good dog story).
We first meet Billie Holiday as a young girl, dreaming of being a star, singing on a borrowed gramophone. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton, whose charming illustrations are done with gouache and charcoal with collage elements, depicts Billie in a beautiful setting on a fancy chair, dressed up with a bow in her hair (perhaps a bit fanciful given the realities of her childhood!). The next spread shows her already a star, the great Lady Day. (Illustrated 2-page spreads from the book can be seen on Novesky's website). Novesky introduces a note of melancholy in the text from the beginning, by explaining that even stars need someone to listen to them, and that's the role Lady Day's dogs played. We meet her small dogs, chihuahuas Pepe and Chiquita, her big dogs (a Great Dane named Gypsy, and finally her favorite dog of all, Mister, who we see in a fabulous illustration, walking with Billie on a leash wearing matching mink coats. Instead of a sidewalk, they are walking on a piano keyboard, with the buildings of New York in the background. Mister had the life of a star himself; he was so pampered he got to eat steak while she was performing in glamorous clubs, and he waited for her while she performed, even serving to keep eager fans at bay.
Novesky tells young readers that "Lady got into trouble. She had to leave home for a year and a day. And Mister couldn't come." In an afterword, she explains that Billie Holiday was in fact in jail during that time for drug possession. When she returned, Mister was there to welcome her, and even accompanied her to a grand concert at New York's Carnegie Hall. The story ends on a hopeful note, with Billie singing her heart out, and Mister listening in the wings.
An author's note gives some more background on Holiday's life, appropriately omitting some of the uglier facts, and provides additional sources and a web resource.
There's no CD with the book, but readers could easily find CD's of Holiday's unique singing style at the library or on YouTube, which would enrich the story.
This is a moving yet charming book about a difficult subject, and could be integrated into units on Black History Month, Women's History Month, or jazz.
On February 1, 2013, actress Sam Futerman got the most astonishing Facebook message. A French fashion designed living in London named Anais saw her in a Youtube video, and realized that they looked exactly alike. While messaging back and forth, the two also found out that they were born on the same day and in the same city in South Korea, before Sam was adopted by an American family, and Anais by a French one.
Being a man is a good thing when getting a job, they don’t get periods, they don’t take as long to get ready, and they very rarely get kidnapped and raped.