Sunday, September 28, 2008

Honoring a legend and a friend

I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for my years of service to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. For ten summers, either as a staff member or as a volunteer, I dedicated myself to this amazing place located in Ashford, CT. It was by luck that I found the place and by the grace of God I was hired as a staff member in 1996. Over the years I made so many incredible friends and met so many incredible kids who dealt with problems far greater than I could ever comprehend. One of those friends, the one who started it all - has gone on to an even greater place. Every news article I read, every story I see on TV - they all have it wrong. While the greater public do know him best for his movies and have somewhat of an idea of his philanthropic work - Mr. Newman's greatest triumph is in the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and its sister camps. He would have told you that himself.

I first met Mr. Newman during the first session of my first summer. I was 18. As is often the case, when Paul was on camp, a buzz would sweep across the staff. You sort of took every corner wondering if you'd see him. He would appear when you least expected it, without the smallest bit of fanfare. I was in the dining hall, trying to make sure each kid had what they needed when I spun around, only to end up nose to nose with Paul - his blue eyes just inches from mine. He asked if he could sit with us for lunch. He absolutely loved to sit back and watch the fruits of his labor come to life and over the years would always drop by someone's table to have a meal with the campers. And he reveled in the fact that they were somewhat clueless about his movie star status. On one occasion, he pulled up a chair to our table and an 8 year old camper looked at him, with one eyebrow raised. "Who are you?" he asked. "I'm Paul Newman." he responded. The camper looked at him, looked at the carton of Newman's Own Lemonade on the table, looked back to Paul grabbed the carton and said, "Uh uh, you ain't no Paul Newman. This is Paul Newman and you ain't no Paul Newman." The smile on Paul's face couldn't have been wider.

A world without Paul Newman is a very sad thought. But his life is a testament to what a human being can be, it gives us all something to strive towards. Live selflessly and help others - all the while, raise a little Hell in the process.

The video below is a promo that was made to benefit the Association of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps. Please take a moment to watch it and get to know Mr. Newman at his best. How lucky we all are to have had him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Field Trip #2

The other week, G and I headed down south to see Mark Twain's house. All the way south to - Hartford, CT. HARTFORD, CT?! You say? Yes, Hartford, CT. Odd to think that the man who made a name for himself writing about steamboats and the Mississippi lived in Hartford. While I am sure the landscape was much different back in the day, currently Mr. Twain lives around the corner from a Rent-A-Center and a Domino's Pizza. The house that Samuel Clemens once called home is now a museum honoring the famous author.

Here are some Mark Twain Fun Facts:

-Mark Twain had one of the first working telephones in the state of Connecticut. Alexander Graham Bell himself installed the phone. (Somehow, that feels like a Yo Momma joke...)

-The service on the phone was so bad, that Twain would note the quality of the connection and at the end of the month would inform the phone company that he only intended to pay for the amount of service that actually worked.

-Twain slept backwards on his bed. (His feet towards the head of the bed.)

-Twain had the railings of each floor shortened, so that when looking down from the 3rd floor, the house looked much bigger. (I'm sure that was really safe for his young children running about.)

-His wife didn't allow Samuel to take on the persona of Mark Twain in the house.

-The interior of the house was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. He was the son of Tiffany & Co founder Louis Comfort Tiffany.

-Twain tried on a number of occasions to find the right space to write. (Who can't relate to that?) He had an office all over the house, moved to an office downtown and ultimately put a desk in the corner of the pool room on the top floor. It was there that he wrote many of the works that he is famous for.

And you can stand in that very room - if you visit the museum. Which could probably use the support. As Mark Twain made some bad investments in his lifetime, the museum has befallen the same fate. It expanded and is having trouble keeping up with the bills. Learn about that brouhaha on NPR.



Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Field Trip #1

Last weekend, G and I, along with some good friends, went to the Big E. (It's a huge county fair of all things New England and isn't to be confused with the famed rapper.) It was a ton of fun and a good break from book deadlines and my never-ending quest to organize the basement.

Here are a few things that we saw:

A sprawling miniature circus:

A sea lion:

An elephant:

And a Monkee:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sketchbook Saturday

Here is a sketch from the cover of Giddy Up, Cowgirl.

Giddy Up, Cowgirl cover sketch

When I find a sketch that I'm happy with, I scan the sketch into my computer and play around with color. I also make small tweaks to the drawing here and there. My publisher will then take a look at these color sketches and send me in a good direction.

Giddy Up, Cowgirl cover sketch

Giddy Up, Cowgirl cover sketch

I paint the picture in acrylics, deliver the final painting to my publisher and then they scan the painting into their computers and place the text.

And there you have it - the cover that you see when you pick up the book. The more revisions a sketch goes through - the better it will always end up.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Peter Reynolds animation

I'm a big fan of Peter Reynolds, his books are pure brilliance. Aside from his life as a book guy, he runs a multimedia studio called Fable Vision. Check out this animation he and his studio created in support of the SARRC (Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Boston Globe Children's Book Festival recap

Thank you to all who braved the weather forecasts to come out to the Boston Globe Book Festival last Saturday. It was a great day, filled with great authors and great performers. The rain held out and the Boston Common was jumping with all sorts of activity. I saw some old friends like Justin Roberts and his gang of Not Ready for Naptime Players, as well as author Rich Michaelson. I also made some great new friends, like author/illustrator Marianne Richmond, Genevieve and D.C. of Choo Choo Soul and DJ Lance Rock of Yo Gabba Gabba. Unfortunately, I just missed Anna Dewdney of Llama Llama Red Pajama fame. But I did get to meet Lisa Loeb backstage.

Much to the chagrin of Gina, I took a lot of pictures with the other authors and performers. (She hates getting her picture taken, which is why she's not popping up in any of these!)

Check out all the pics here.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wall St Journal

A few weeks ago Max for President was featured in the Wall Street Journal. Check it out here!
The article lists some great election themed books, including my personal favorite - Grace for President.

Also, for your YouTube'ing pleasure, a book trailer for Max.

(Also available here for you non-Youtubers.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Boston Globe Children's Book Festival

Hey - lookie here, it's September! Fall is nearly here! Did you have a good summer? Are you getting your Halloween costume ready? Ralph is, he's still trying to decide between a few different options... All I have to say is, he has a chicken costume, it was bought when he was a puppy and we're still waiting for it to fit him....

But that is all besides the point - It's September and I'll be at the Boston Globe Children's Book Festival this Saturday, September 6th. At around 1:20 PM, I'll be taking the Target stage - reading and drawing my little heart out. It all happens at the Parade Grounds on Boston Common. (The full schedule of the day's events can be found here.)

Check their website out for more info and the complete lineup:

Also, this advertisement ran in the Boston Globe on Friday and Sunday. WHOA - I thought to myself when I first saw it. I'm right in-between Lisa Loeb and Justin Roberts. I hope the inclusion of my mug doesn't prevent people from turning up.