Recording Day!

Today, BETWIXT and I begin a bit of a new journey.  We’ve been working on this new project for a while, mostly individually, but, we are bringing it all together today for a recording session.  Our goal is to eventually pitch our work to PBS or some other children’s network as an animated series.  Unfortunately, none of us knows animation.  But, we’re not letting that stop us.

Awhile back, I rewrote Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly, as a script instead of a children’s book manuscript.  And I grabbed 3 of my children for the parts of Zack, Paxton, and Sylvia.  One of my kids, the oldest boy, was stricken with a huge case of very dramatic stage fright combined with the issues that go along with being 14.  Seeing as it wasn’t worth the fight, I “fired” him from his job–he was thrilled–and “hired” a friend of my 11 year old son to fill the part.  It was probably a wise choice anyway.  The 14 year old’s voice was deepening quite a bit, so he may not have been the best Paxton.

Yesterday, I got my cast together to do some run-throughs.  And it’s funny.  The 8 year old girl is much louder and more emotive than two 11 year old boys.  After coaching and cajoling, however, I think it’s going to work.  TJ and Jared of BETWIXT will be here this afternoon with recording equipment.  I will send the 14 year old and the dog to the movies (or someplace) and we will capture these kids doing what they do–I wish I could say “on tape” here, but it doesn’t work that way anymore.  Digital is the name of the game; there is no tape to be found in this process.  So, I’m going to stop blogging right here, and pick up this afternoon when we have finished the recording.  Hang on…

Several hours pass….

Hey there!  I’m back!  4:30 in the afternoon, and the recording is done!  Overall, it was a great day of work.  Sailor seems to channel Sylvia straight from my imagination (or maybe I wrote the character with Sailor in my brain) and Starson and his friend Michael really delivered on Paxton and Zack.

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Even my Corgi, Sophia Loren got into the act by barking a voice for Flash.  The only one who was really not into the deal was Soda Pop, who normally meows loudly when you touch his tail.  Today, he was strangely silent except for one very pronounced hiss.  Oh well.  We’ll get him next time.

He was having NONE of it.

He was having NONE of it.

So, besides eating a bunch of vegetarian pizza and chocolate chip cookie bars, we accomplished the recording portion of our “pilot” project.  Jared and TJ did a great job helping the kids understand the process and get into character, and Jared totally rocked his professional recording abilities ALL OVER my photo studio.

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You can even notice Flash watching the proceedings from behind the children as they read their parts.  In the next couple weeks, I will have a sample of what we did that day, perhaps with a couple new illustrations for our storyboards, and some of Jared’s score backing it all up.  It was a good day.  As most days in Inclement are.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

A Mish-Mash

Some days are a mish-mash of activities and projects.  Today is no exception.  First off, I have to tell you about my visit to Northeast Elementary School, which occurred day before yesterday.  We had a GREAT time!  The kids and parents listened to me read two books–Bug Summer-Raining Ladybugs, and Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly.

Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs

Bug Summer–Raining Ladybugs

 

Yes, THIS was the "lucky" book...

Yes, THIS was the “lucky” book…

In between, I did a quick Flash illustration, which made everyone very happy.

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After all the packing and preparation, it was a worthwhile way to spend the evening.  And afterwards, the hubster and I got to go out for a sandwich together, which rarely happens.

I have also spent more time on Soda’s Valentine, getting pages ready so I can eventually publish!  Yay!  Here are a few more photos that are all tricked out and ready for page design.

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Then I spent some time on the photography portion of my business—I do run a photography studio called Images By Tracy Lovett, and I had to design a customer book of images that we did of her daughter–here are a couple of the pages from THAT project.

Untitled-30 Untitled-38

 

And you may learn more about my photography studio by checking out my Facebook page here.

After THAT, I was back onto Inclement stuff.  My friends Jared and TJ–the founding members of the band BETWIXT that I work with quite a bit, are coming down this Sunday to work on a collaborative project with me.  We have taken Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly and turned it into a script for what will hopefully become an animated children’s television pilot.  My 11 year old son, one of his friends, and my 8 year old daughter are going to read the parts for us, and we will record their voices so we can produce a finished audio portion of the show for future animation.  I am hard at work doing storyboards of the script as well.  Eventually, we hope to meet with people at PBS, maybe Nickelodeon, or other children’s tv networks to see if they are interested in what we are doing.

I was supposed to have a photo session this afternoon in my Studio, but one of the little ones wasn’t feeling his best, so we have postponed that until Saturday.  And that gives me  a bit of time to write my blog today.  After I am done here, I’m going to return to photography stuff for a few hours, editing some customer photos, and printing an order or two for Senior Portraits.

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Oh, and I played a game of chess with my son–partial game.  Chess and I do not get along, and I always lose interest about half-way through.  I also need to stretch two canvas portraits for customers today.

So, that is what my plans are for the rest of the day.  My sons (who are homeschooled) have had an art day today, working on “macro” projects–they have to design a macroscopic world, either real or imaginary–and do a drawing of it.  One of them is working on rendering a corner of his room, up close, complete with a tiny city and buildings that, at least in his imagination, exist in that space.  The other one is doing an outdoor scene, where the stems of plants are enormous and there are critters of all sorts living and breathing and fighting and dying, all on a tiny scale.  I wish I had time for this project as well….it sounds so fun and full of possibilities.  But alas, I have a full plate already.

See, that’s the thing about creativity, and creative jobs.  Sometimes, they require laser-sharp focus, and many times, you are running hither and nigh, accomplishing many unrelated or semi-related tasks just to get through the day.  But, that’s my life.

So, back to it!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

Come With Me To Inclement….And Pack A Bag!

Today, I’m taking Inclement on the road.  Not in a big way, but still, I’m going to be out there talking to kids about my town, reading a book to them, and doing a couple illustrations.

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This isn’t one of our Creative Collaborations that I do with BETWIXT–gosh, I REALLY have to do a blog post on those guys.

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No, this is just a simple half hour at a Family Fun Night at a school nearby.  But although I will be there just half-an-hour, it is an important night.  You see, not only is Inclement just about my favorite place in the world to spend my time, and a place that provides so many ideas I don’t have time to write about them, it is also business for me.  And an important rule in business is that you have to get the word out that you ARE in business.  You have to let people KNOW what you do.  In half an hour, over the course of maybe two books, I hope to say something or do something or read something that sticks in those parents’ and childrens’ and teachers’ minds.  Perhaps they will buy some books.  Perhaps they will hire BETWIXT and me to do a Creative Collaboration at the school.  Perhaps a Mom or a Dad somewhere will sit down and draw something with their child instead of telling them to go play video games.  Whatever happens, whatever the outcome of half an hour, it can’t be bad.

Half an hour is a very short time.  In the scheme of the universe, it is like a baby-biscuit nano-second.  But the process for preparing for that half an hour is huge.

Here is my list today:

1. Pack computer equipment.  When I read to large groups, I do so with a laptop and a digital projector.  Makes it MUCH easier for everyone to see the illustrations in the books.

2. Pack the cords for computer equipment.  This is a biggie.  If I forget the cords, what is the point of having the computer?

3. Pack my illustration supplies–easel, BIG PAPER (sheets of 3 feet x 4 feet), chalk pastels.

4. Trim 150 bookmarks to hand out.  I printed them yesterday, and today, I have to trim them.  I hate trimming.  Oh, and I have to pack these, so I don’t forget them.

5. Money.  I have to get change and pack the cash box.  People may want to purchase books.  Can’t forget this.

Wonder how it will work for MY fiscal crisis...

Wonder how it will work for MY fiscal crisis…

6.  BOOKS.  I can’t forget books.  This is probably the biggest pain as far as packing goes.  I have 7 book titles now, and I’m going to take some of each.  Which leads to 7 different boxes of books, and I never know how many to take of each, so I always bring more than I need….

7. I forgot this in the first part of the list–check to make sure all the book presentations WORK on my computer BEFORE I pack it up.  If the book doesn’t run on the computer, there is NO POINT in bringing the computer.

8. Babywipes.  No, I don’t have a baby.  But, they are very handy in cleaning my hands after I use chalk pastels for 10 minutes or so.

9. Water.  I always get thirsty.

10. Carry everything out to the truck.  This is where my 14 year old son comes in, AND his father, after he gets home from work.

11. Get ready myself.  See, I have to tell myself to do this, because I get out of the house so infrequently.  I planned my wardrobe last night, fortunately.

12.  Oh, another thing I forgot–my camera.  I have to pack the camera so I can get pictures of me doing what I do, so I can BLOG about it tomorrow to whomever might be reading this.

13.  Eat.  When I get busy like this, I forget to eat.  Then I get really hungry during my presentation, and sometimes I feel like I’m going to “lose my cookies”, and that isn’t fun when I’m reading to families.  So, I must eat before I leave.

Tastes just like chicken...

Tastes just like chicken…

I think that is it.  Lucky 13.  All of this, to get Inclement out there, in front of families, to hopefully enchant them a little bit, to make people see what I see when I visit that little place in Southwest Iowa, from which all magic and wonder flows–at least for me.

tunnel

So, tomorrow, I may have a tale to tell about my brief half hour.  Perhaps I’ll have a booking for a Creative Collaboration for next fall.  Perhaps I’ll have a new idea for a book.  I will definitely be working on Soda’s Valentine.  Finishing layout, so I can turn the file into a pdf and upload it!  Yay, getting closer.  But for today, my focus has to be on this half hour that occurs around suppertime tonight.  Think happy thoughts for me!  And pray I don’t forget anything.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Soda’s Valentine—The Beginning and The Book Cover

So, last Sunday morning (a week ago) I woke rather early, but stayed in bed and let my thoughts just wander.  Early morning is my favorite time of day for creativity.  I come up with my best ideas before 7 am, usually in a semi-conscious state.  My brain drifts from one subject to another with an ease that is well-nigh impossible during my normally busy days.  Insights happen.  Problems my brain has been grinding on, in the background, solve themselves simply and clearly.  My thoughts have a flow to them that just can’t be replicated once the sun comes up.

Primary creative time….

So it was on that Sunday morning.  An entire Soda Pop book “wrote” itself for me in that dreamlike version of consciousness, rhymes and all.  In fact, I believe I had about 20 pages pictured in my brain, and all the ending words in the entire book rhymed with one another.  For those of you unfamiliar, my Soda Pop books are fully illustrated with art and photographs, and up until Sunday morning, none of them rhyme.  When I finally stirred into fully functioning life, I grabbed a piece of paper and jotted down some ideas for this book, which would celebrate Valentines day.  I decided I would illustrate most of it with photographs this time, simply because I felt like the real Soda Pop would be fine with the scenes I had in my brain, AND I wanted to get this book finished rather quickly, perhaps in time for a Valentine’s preview on this blog, Facebook, etc.  I would have liked to have actual paperback copies in my hands by Valentine’s day, ideally, but, I realized that type of shooting and production schedule would not likely work for the rest of my family and my other responsibilities.  However, I also wanted to hand-draw the cover design as much as possible.  I had a strong image in my mind, and I just wanted to get my hands dirty again.  Many times, I draw on my Wacom Tablet and computer, so my drawings are digitized immediately.  This time, I went old school, at least to start.

First off, I organized my tools.

Paper–I used 14×17 drawing paper.

Pencil–I favor Ticonderoga #2’s for a lot of drawing tasks.

Then, I sat down under good light and proceeded to draw.  As you can see, I started with a cut-out of a heart, which I made before I sat down.

 

I traced it in the center of the paper, and began to sketch what I had “seen” in my brain.

After 45 minutes or so, I had the basic shapes down where I wanted them, and I began to ink-in the image with a fine-tipped black art marker.

I spent a great deal of time working this drawing, being very careful with the black marker.

 

I used a lot of detail, and in all, I have about 6 hours of work to get the drawing to this point.

 

Then, I stopped for the day.  The next morning, I wrote the story in pencil on white copy paper.  I realized that I couldn’t rhyme every line exactly the same, although it seemed to my brain that I had succeeded with that when the book had come to me that early Sunday morning.  After spending an hour or so of writing, I felt I had the story where it needed to be, and I was ready to start photographing Soda Pop for the photo-illustrations.  I also needed to photograph the inked illustration I had spent so much time on the afternoon before in order to create a digital file of the image so I could work with it on my computer.  Normally, this would be a job for my scanner, but I drew this larger than the 8×11 scanner bed.  So, I set up a tripod and my studio lights and took the photos of the artwork very carefully.

Download this for a nifty coloring page…

I then downloaded the pictures and imported them to Photoshop to tweak them a bit, and I decided I liked the image in reverse, meaning, I used the software to flip everything to it’s exact opposite color value–all blacks became white, and all whites became black.

Pretty cool…..

 

After that, I imported the image into Corel Painter, and, using my digital pad and pen, I picked colors and, very carefully, colored the image exactly like you would color in a coloring book.  Last, I added text.  I still need to add the written-by and illustrated by lines on the cover, but I will leave that for the end.

Okay, so, that is the beginning of THIS particular children’s book.  All of them, like people, have slightly different birth-stories, but there are several constants here for me.

1. Idea generation happens fast, usually when I’m in a dreamlike state.  Doesn’t matter where you are, when you get an idea or an inspiration, WRITE IT DOWN in some way.  Even if you don’t have a complete mental picture of how it will end up, write it down.  Write down MORE ideas if you have them.  For lots of people, it is either feast-or famine with ideas.  Write them down, so, when you are in the middle of an idea-famine, you can go back to your lists and have something to work with.

2. Imagery is very important to me.  It sets the tone.  The cover came first this time, but it doesn’t always.  However, just like the words, I try to get whatever imagery I have down as quickly as possible.

3. Have the correct tools for the job.  For me, always, it starts with pencil and paper–even for NOVELS.  It’s the nuts and bolts of how I take notes and how I generate art.  Then, after the basics are there, I digitize it all, and drop it into whatever programs I need to in order to get the look I want.  You don’t need to have professional software to do this, but I find, for illustration, that my digital pad and pen are invaluable.

Next post—for this book, I’m illustrating primarily with photographs.  So, I will give you the scoop on my process, and of course, the reactions of my star, Soda Pop.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative.  You may learn more about her here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

He’s not incredibly impressed. But man, he loves candy! (Not really.)

A NEW BIG Project….

I’ve been away from official blogging for a few months now. What can I say…life happened. Some of the changes are good, but one, at least, was quite sad for me. My 95 year old Grandmother passed right before Christmas.

So, that changed a few things for me, and made me rethink priorities. I’ve now got the weighty responsibility of archiving all of her photographs—there must be at least 500–and transferring them to digital format. Some of them are as old, or older than she was, so they are very precious to my family. I am amazed at how much looking at all this ancient history makes me simultaneously miss her, and also makes me feel close to her. I am lucky.

In addition, I’ve renewed my connection with BETWIXT, and we are hard at work on what we envision will be an animated pilot for a children’s television show based upon Inclement. The first episode is a retelling of Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly, with some added characters.  It has been written, and we’ve done basic recording for scoring purposes.  Now we are searching for the right animator to bring it to life.  In addition, I’m storyboarding the script.  So, lots of work ahead.

 

And I’ve started serious work again on my next novel, The Western Radio Hub, which is the sequel to Buck’s Rodeo.

Lots of exciting things happening there, and currently, our heroes are caught in a mysterious fog settling upon some version of the Loess Hills and an unknown person in pursuit behind them.  How I get them out is brewing in my head for tonight’s writing.

Finally, I have a BIG project I’m working on, one which I wish to share with anyone who may be interested.  Soda Pop has a new book!

And I am going to journal about the making of this book, from the beginning ideas clear through the publication process.  I’m hoping it will encourage others to follow their own creativity wherever it may lead them.  However, during this process of documenting the making of a book, there will be other “side trips” of creativity.  I am also a professional photographer, running my own portrait studio.  I am also a Mom, running my own family.  Writing and illustrating is just a part of what I do.  So, my BIG PROJECT is more than documenting my journey with Soda’s Valentine.  It is also about the entire process of my life, and how the process is messy.  Seemingly disconnected things all come together to form projects in ways that cannot be predicted.  That is how creativity works.  Randomness of experience, of talent, and complete chance all mesh together at exactly the right time in exactly the right way to form….well, hopefully….magic.

Some of the “magic” I was able to capture this morning, on what I call my Super-Fog-Walk….just a random impulse to walk in the fog with my camera.

So, join me.  If you are a teacher, please feel free to follow my progress as I work to bring Inclement into our “real” world, whatever that may be.  I may post excerpts from my novel one day, photos another, and then illustrations after that.  I may post creative ideas I did with my kids, or coloring pages, or game ideas, or how-to articles.  Follow along and spread the word.  Creativity is like that—like the revelation Dorothy Gale had at the end of the Wizard of Oz–all she was ever looking for was right there, in her own backyard.  Creativity is there, right there, in our own backyards.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative.  You may learn more about her here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Bug Summer–The Beginning

A new FREE book!

Okay, a quick thing here today, but a fun little project to do with your kids, or for your kids as little gifts—a children’s book!  It’s called Bug Summer–The Beginning, and it is available now by clicking here.  Please note, you can do it as a screen quality pdf OR as a printable that outputs on ONE 8.5×11 sheet of paper (cardstock preferred) to cut out and assemble.  There is also a video tutorial about building this book, which is fairly simply done, but hard to visualize with written directions.  Give it a try, have fun with your children, and have a great Bug Summer!

The music on the video was created by two mutual friends who have formed the band BETWIXT, to create amazing music for kids, that, incidentally, is very catchy for adults as well.  They are awesome.  They are in my book, Buck’s Rodeo.  They will have their own picture book soon, as well.

Tracy Lovett is a wife, mother, author/illustrator and photographer living in Southwest Iowa. She has written and illustrated 6 children’s books in the past 3 years, the last being a novel for ages 12 and up called Buck’s Rodeo, which is available in dead tree format as well as a Kindle book. She is working hard to get the picture books on the Kindle as well.   You may find her books on Amazon, and by clicking here.  You may follow her on Facebook and on Twitter, and even dig her up on Pinterest.

I Wanna Be Sylvia

I love this book.  I mean I LOVE this book.  This one was easy.  This one was just a smile to pull off.  The idea came to me when I was riding in the car on the way home from my grandmother’s house on a windy April afternoon.  The clouds scudded across that new blue spring sky, and the wind lifted the hair from my forehead, making me remember the days that I ran free as a child, my feet tender-bare for maybe the first time that year, with a kite riding the waves of turbulence above  (and how come, looking back at things, it seems there were so FEW of those days?).  There is a POWER to flying kites.  The string thrums in your fist, the wind pulls it surprisingly strong, and when you’re a kid, you don’t realize what a FORCE the wind is, how it can rip off roofs and sail people catastrophically through the air.  You just can’t SEE it, that’s the thing.  It is invisible, powerful, and there.  I remember one childhood kite, a shaped like a butterfly, with long tails depending from each wind.  That thing climbed so high it was a dot with tiny ribbon thread tails, nothing but a string heading up up and away, into the air, disappearing into the distance and glare.

When I reached Junior High age, I would build my own kites, sometimes well, sometimes disastrously.  I have my own kids do this now, for fun, and for part of their homeschool curriculum.  I think I enjoy it more than they.  I don’t have to be coaxed away from the laptop to do it, at any rate.

I remember Charles Shultz’s Charlie Brown and his kite-eating tree.

I remember, vaguely, some sort of inflatable kite my dad purchased for a family picnic when I was small-small, before my parents divorced.  It was orange, and my memory has painted it as some sort of weird flotation device for the pool tethered to kite string, although I know that REALLY wasn’t how it was.  There was a kite-eating tree at that picnic as well, a harbinger of things to come for my family perhaps.

And so I wrote this book.  Because of all that.  And because I’m a bit like Sylvia.  She just believes in problem-solving.

Problem solved...

She works it out for herself, trial-and-error, and she knows no fear.  Now, that last part, about fear, ISN’T like me, not at all.  I think that all the stuff we’re afraid of as kids–vampires, ghosts, monstahs–they all make much more rational sense than the crap we get scared of as adults.  Mortgages, death, money, marriage, divorce, and all those other millions of miles of crap that is strewn across the roads of our lives really isn’t what we should be afraid of.  We should be afraid when we DON’T see the ghosts anymore, when the vampires disappear, when money takes over and do-or-die is all wrapped up in the divorce decree.  Sylvia knows she can fly, just because she KNOWS.  The perfect surety of a child.  She can build it, she can make it happen. Somehow, someway.   I wrote this because I WANT to be Sylvia.  And I want to feel that magic and that wonder of the kite string humming in my hand, pulling me to places unknown.

Watch the lil’ music video of the book here.

The music on the video was created by two mutual friends who have formed the band BETWIXT, to create amazing music for kids, that, incidentally, is very catchy for adults as well.  They are awesome.  They are in my book, Buck’s Rodeo.  They will have their own picture book soon, as well.

 
Tracy Lovett is a wife, mother, author/illustrator and photographer living in Southwest Iowa. She has written and illustrated 6 children’s books in the past 3 years, the last being a novel for ages 12 and up called Buck’s Rodeo, which is available in dead tree format as well as a Kindle book. She is working hard to get the picture books on the Kindle as well.   You may find her books on Amazon, and by clicking here.  You may follow her on Facebook and on Twitter, and even dig her up on Pinterest.

Wired For Wonder

So, people ask me “What’s the new book about?” and they’re talking about Buck’s Rodeo. Well, this is a toughie for me. All my other books were 36 pages long–at the most. They were filled with pictures and fun, rhyming text (most of them) and I could encapsulate the story in like, 20 seconds. But they were sure pretty to look at. So, when someone asks me the same thing about Buck’s, I have to consider deeply how much time I have to answer. It’s some 458 pages long, and I could talk for an hour. Most people don’t want to listen for an hour. They want a sound byte or two so they can decide if they want to buy the thing or not, and that’s it. Last night, I spent considerable time thinking about what my sound bytes are. And I DON’T want to memorize the back cover of the book and regurgitate it upon demand. Uck.

This is what happened when I tried to make her memorize the text on the back of the book.

 

So, I thought about ALL my books, including the novel. Is there a theme in all of them? And, it turns out, that as diverse as all the stories are and as LONG as the last one is, there IS a theme running through the whole dealio. (Sorry. Watched Napoleon Dynamite yesterday, and Uncle Rico says that. I love Uncle Rico.) So, here it comes. My sound byte. And I got it down to ONE WORD: Wonder.

I love wonder.....

That’s it. Wonder. You know, that amazing feeling you have nearly all the time when you are below 12 years of age? The world is big, the world is unknown, the world is magical, and you don’t have the experience yet to be sarcastic and crappy about life because, for the most part, life is pretty good. Life is about chocolate and chasing lightning bugs and cooking hotdogs over the fire and swimming in a crystal blue lake with your friends. Now, I know that this isn’t true for everyone. There are some really crappy deals out there for children. Child poverty is higher than it has ever been. Schools are oftentimes subpar. Parents are crazy/drunk/high/violent. There’s cancer. You can’t even quantify how awful that is. To quote the visuals in that Van Halen video: “Right now, God is killing Moms and dogs….because he has to.” Kids listen to the news, and listen to all sorts of discussions from the adults around them about politics and gas prices and people killing other people and they get the feeling that the world is not safe (which it ain’t. As the master, Stephen King said, “You can’t be safe on a skateboard…”) Then there’s that whole KONY 2012 thing, (and not only is that horrible, but I think the guy who set the whole thing up has lost his happy thoughts as well. Oh well. Another blog.) The world can be a HORRIBLE place for the little things, and that includes the little folks.

But, I don’t think that’s our natural state. I don’t think that’s how our brains are supposed to be wired. I think we are wired for Wonder. I think we want to look at the world through virgin eyes, just marvelling at the way the stars spread across the sky, at the sunset on the water, at the ladybugs on the flowers. I think there is a part of our hearts or our spirits or whatever, if we are a bit lucky, and if we have managed to hold onto it tightly enough, protecting it from the world, that will ALWAYS be 12 or 10 or 8 or 5.

EVERYTHING is magic when you're a kid.....

See, I go into schools and talk about my books to all ages of people, from the little kids struggling to make it to the bathroom before they have an accident to the teachers that have been there so long they are doing the same thing–trying to make it to the bathroom. We read my books–I blow up the illustrations on the big screen, and wow, it is WONDERFUL.

Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs

I see it on their faces. I do art for them, on my Wacom pad, and on this huge paper with pastels.

Yes, that's me, with my back to the camera....

Again, wonder. We do hands-on art projects, where they get in on all the creativity, while they listen to some great tunes by the folk/rock band, BETWIXT(blog post coming about them).

My Boys, TJ and Jared---AKA BETWIXT

Wonder everywhere. But here’s the dealio: you can just see the kids that don’t feel comfortable with themselves. Maybe they’re wearing shabby clothes. Maybe their hair isn’t combed, or maybe (and this is somehow the most disturbing) they have a look to their eyes that says I have seen too much. I’m not supposed to see this much, I’m just a kid, but the grownups around me just don’t get it. I have seen too much. I see them, and it kills me a little bit. I want to help each of them. I want to roll back time and place them in a better situation. But, I can’t. I’m one person. The only thing I can do is try to make them forget about all the adult-created crap and give them their sense of WONDER back for a few minutes. It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you are, where you live, the clothes you wear. If you can live each day as if it were really NEW, as if there is always something to be interested in….that is being rich.

And the cool thing is, usually, with the kids that are having a tough time, well, it doesn’t take that much to give them that wonder. A smile. Some encouragement. Their wiring for wonder may be buried a bit, but it is still intact.

They draw me pictures for me to take home. Sometimes they mail them to me. I know I’m not changing their situation. Except, maybe, for a little while, I am. Maybe, if they can read a story, if they can look at some art, if they can grasp a crayon in their fist and make magical marks on paper, maybe it gives them wonder, for just a bit. Maybe they can get lost in their own imagination for a while instead of drowning in the ocean of issues they didn’t ask for. And that is all I can do. It’s small magic, and in many ways, it is inconsequential, especially for adult problems foisted into children’s lives. But, as individuals, small magic is all that we have to give, most of the time.

This makes me EXTREMELY HAPPY....

But imagine, if all of us adults retained our sense of wonder, and encouraged it in the children with whom we are entrusted. If we all did that, one little instance at a time….incremental change, baby. My mind reels with wonder at what might actually happen then.

So, that’s it. Wonder.

In Buck’s Rodeo, there are four 12 year old middle class boys with issues that a lot of kids have–one of them has lost his dad. Another lives with a grandparent. Another has a divorced mom who is remarrying. The fourth has those crazy “helicopter” parents. They all live in Inclement, Iowa. They are friends, and they hang out in the lake in the summertime. They camp around a fire on the beach. There is an unexplained light in the woods, Grampa tells them a story about what that light is. They have adventures. There is danger and love and sneaking out the window after dark, and there is loss and death and friendship and hope. There is magic, of a sort. And there is Wonder.

Oh. And there is a beagle named Flash.

Flash splashin' in the mud....from Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs....