The Book Maketh Progress

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Guess what guess what guess what guess what?! I got the copyedited manuscript for Fractured Memories back today from the publisher. The person I’m working with from the publishing house had this to say, ” I think you are going to be very happy with your Copyedit.  The editor loved reading it – he said it is beautifully written (the highest praise I have ever seen him give) and my Editor-in-Chief told me she teared up a few times reviewing it.  I can honestly say that she has never said that before.”

Which made me jump up and down and go “SQUEEEEEEEEE!” so that the cats looked at me funny. But they should really be used to that by now. Get over it, cats. Stop being so judge-y. Jerks. 

Anyway, super-excited-little me just wanted to let you know so that you can celebrate with me and hope that the suggested edits aren’t too agonizing. I’m about 12 pages in, and so far, it’s just minor grammar stuff like adding or taking out commas. Hoping it continues like that.

Now off to scare the cats some more.

I’m a SYTYCD Kind of Artist

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As a young artist fresh out of college, I was told by multiple galleries that I needed to “pick a style.” Every time I showed them my portfolio, that’s what they told me. My art had too big a range for them to consider me. They didn’t know how to represent me. Having worked in art galleries since then, I understand their point of view. They need to know that I will continue to produce work in a style that sells for them. The problem with this, though, is that it doesn’t suit my personality as a person or an artist. I have too many ideas that make my brain itch and twitch, and there isn’t one style that can encompass all of them. My hands and my brain get bored repeating a single formula in a variety of ways.

This is not to say that there’s not a benefit to being forced to create series of works that can be grouped together. I have found great reward in creating first the Thanatology series, then the dancers, then the works about dementia, and now the realist work. But I like to dip my toes into other art forms and styles periodically to test the water to see what the next new series will be. I also like having the freedom to revisit past series when a new idea comes along, like when I did a the new dancer painting by letting you all “crowd source” each stage. And when you do several pieces in a certain style, you can start to get followers who look for that particular work.

I was watching So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), and it occurred to me that their all-stars must be, in some ways, like me. The fact that they return to the show means that they enjoy dancing outside of their “own styles.” They like to stretch, literally and figuratively. And each new style, each new dance, each new partner helps grow their abilities and add to their repertoire. And so it is with me. For example, taking watercolors along on my trip down the Danube helped me expand my own artistic vocabulary. I have a feeling I’ll return to them periodically, particularly because there are so many more styles to try within that medium. Branching out and illustrating my friend’s children’s book was a new way to stretch for me, and makes me think that I would actually consider someday illustrating the beautiful stories my grandmother wrote for my dad and uncle.

There are just so many possibilities with art.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by them all, because I want to do everything, make everything. When I see an artist whose work I like, I mentally file the style for use later to express my own ideas. And there just isn’t enough time in the day to work a job, promote the art I’ve already made, and make everything that I want to make. That being said, I’m grateful that I’m living in the technology age, where I’m not dependent upon galleries to represent me in just one style. I can throw everything on my website, SYTYCD style, including the stuff that doesn’t fit neatly into a single body of work. I call that stuff my untamed art. I can promote various styles and subjects through various online venues. But I get bogged down in the tedium of promotion. I just want to create, and I want a fairy godmother who will magically find homes for my creations. Le sigh.

Mondays With Muddy

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Here is the next excerpt from Beatrice Page’s (my grandmother) unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:

“Whoever coined the phrase ‘as the crow flies’ to describe the shortest distance between two points never watched crows at daybreak when they first wake up. They are seemingly catapulted out of the trees, one after another at split-second intervals, sometimes only two or three, sometimes a small flock, all cawing loudly and incessantly as they flap around wildly, as if drunk and having trouble keeping their balance and sense of direction. I can discern no pattern or purpose, just a brawling, sprawling pandemonium until they manage to shake the sleep out from under their wings, regain balance and perspective, quiet down and set off presumably in search of food in a straight line ‘as the crow flies.’

Another thing I’ve noticed about crows, which I’ve never seen mentioned in a bird book, is a peculiar sound they make at times. Everyone know that crows caw, but this other sound they make is a rapid succession of clicks, something like that of castanets. I haven’t been able to figure out what they mean by it.”

Emily needs

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Because I’m feeling like a lazy sack o’ shit today, I’m taking a cue from other bloggers (i.e., Jenny Lawson at The Bloggess) and am sharing the results Google proposes when I type in my name to see what I have:

Emily has screen shot

I feel like my life has taken a wrong turn somewhere. I don’t, in fact, have a goblin in my garden, though, now, I desperately wish I did. I have a bunch of dying plants, though, since our flooding promptly turned into a drought. I also, to my knowledge, do not have a gun, a secret admirer, a boyfriend, or a twin pll. I don’t even know what a twin pll is, do you?!!

I have, however, had amnesia, though it wasn’t for revenge. Who would give themselves amnesia to get revenge?! Having had it, I can assure you that it didn’t punish anyone other than me. And maybe my parents. Maybe I was secretly angry at them because they were so crappy, and I knew I could make their life a living hell for a little while, and also get out of doing chores or homework or eating vegetables because I could say I had amnesia and forgot. Or maybe they arranged for me to fall off my horse, causing said amnesia, so that I’d forget what a horrible childhood they’d given me and convince me that they were the best parents ever. Maybe they’re not even my real parents and they stole me and had to make me forget my other parents. Maybe my entire life before the age of 11 was a lie. Damn you, Google, you’ve made me question my entire life before the age of 11. If you’re not careful, Google, I’m going exact amnesia revenge on you.

On a separate note, I’m a little disappointed that Google didn’t suggest “Emily has a bottle of bourbon.”

Illustrating

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I had friends coming down over the weekend, and since my guest bedroom is also my studio, I couldn’t work in oils for the week because it would make it all fumy and oil painty and turpentiney for them. Hardly a welcoming smell. Luckily, a friend recently hired me to illustrate a children’s book that he wrote with his daughter, and I had already decided to use acrylics for it. So, I spent the last week and a half or so working on those illustrations. It’s a super cute story about kids looking for a Christmas present for their mom who stumble into a book cooking store. Chaos, of course, ensues. Eleven paintings later, my hand is just about ready to fall off, but I’m pleased with most of them. A little tweaking here and there is necessary, but they’re mostly done:

Book Cook illustrations lined up.jpg

Mondays With Muddy

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This is the next installment of Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:

“Unable to throw off a mood of inexplicable sadness all morning. I kept feeling as if someone I loved had just died. Not until early this afternoon when I was sitting down on the ledges did I realize it was the anniversary of Father’s death. Curious how you remember year after year in some buried layer of your mind certain anniversaries which the top of you mind has forgotten.

Then I recalled that at the time of his death, when I had returned here for a few days, I had gone by myself for an hour and had sat in that selfsame spot on the ledges. And I remembered how I had found a measure of tranquility and a consolation of sorts in thinking how long that rocky coats had endured. It was essentially the same as when the last glacier receded from it tens of thousands of years ago: a little erosion by the waves, a little chipping off by winter’s frost, but basically unchanged. It seemed to me it would endure for as long or longer in the future, a background against which untold numbers of individuals might appear briefly even as I, until the universe came to a natural end in fire or ice at some inconceivably remote date. That day I had felt one could almost (but not quite) learn to accept death as the end of the individual without undue agony of mind since the miracle of life itself in all its manifestations would go on virtually forever.

This morning as I sat gazing out over the calm sea, I tried to recapture that pensive mood but instead I became incensed as my thoughts turned toward what we are doing to our world. Even if we don’t bring it to an abrupt and violent end my bombs, we may do it just as effectively by gradual devastation: polluting our rivers and lakes with chemicals and waste materials, poisoning the air we breathe with noxious fumes, contaminating our food either directly or indirectly with pesticides, cutting down forests and draining swamps that support much of our wildlife in order to build shopping centers and airstrips, bludgeoning baby seals to make high-fashion coats out of their skins…

The list goes on and one, as everybody knows, and thank God more and more voices have been raised in warning and outrage during the past few years. At long last it’s being realized that the relationship between humankind and the environment is a matter of health and therefore of life or death. At least some effort is being made to halt the destruction.

But there are those who warn that without a greater effort it will soon be too late. There are those who say it is already too late.

What a paradox that we are all looking for more abundant life in one way or another and at the same time seemingly doing our level best to destroy what life we have.

I came back to the house in a rage and wrote another batch of protest letters to various powers that be.”

Verbal Diarrhea

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Is it just me, or does “verbal diarrhea” not sound like what it’s meant to describe? To me, it sounds like either it’s referring to verbs that relate to having a bowel movement, like “to poop,” “to crap,” “to shit,” “to wooby,” (I’m not entirely sure if I made that last one up or if that’s actually a thing people say) or it sounds like someone is screaming a flood of verbs at you, like,”GO CONVULSE EAT COMBUST JUMP DEFENESTRATE BLUBBER CHORTLE GUFFAW DRINK SKI STERNUTATE FLATULATE CHOKE BARK REGURGITATE!” I don’t know about you, but that hardly ever happens to me, and yet I hear people refer to verbal diarrhea on a semi-almost-not-quite-regular basis.

There’s a good possibility that this should not have been a post. You’re welcome.

Last Danube Stuff, I Swear, Sort Of

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I think this will be the last post I make about my trip down the Danube, but you never know. I’m at least not planning anymore. These are just random observations I made that don’t fit neatly into posts of their own:

  • In the Raleigh airport, which is a reasonably clean space, there were two little birds hanging out at our gate. So many questions: How did they get in? Are the crumbs they pick up off of the ground appropriate food for them? Are there worms somewhere inside that we can’t see? Why isn’t there bird poop everywhere? How do they make nests if there isn’t any plant life to swipe? If there aren’t other couples around, are their babies going to mate with each other? If that keeps happening, will they turn into mutants that take over the world?
  • When  we were flying into Amsterdam at night, there were low clouds hanging over the water, and it looked forshortened or compressed, like they were on the same level as the boats floating along. It looked like something out of The Life of Pi – pure magic. Boats floating through clouds.
  • Watching the water, from the boat while we were docked, it reminded me of Kandinsky circles. Rings within rings within rings. I wonder if that was ever something he noticed or in some way subconsciously influenced him?
  • Also watching the water, I noticed these really cool ripples, and then looked at the chair I was sitting in and saw the same pattern repeated. Intentional?

water ripples

chair ripples

  • In an art gallery in Passau, there was a sign that said, “If you plan to haggle, please give us advanced notice so that we have time to raise our prices.” I NEED that sign.
  • Do the workers at the Amsterdam airport who don’t use deodorant not smell themselves?! Because I sure as shit smelled them.
  • Why was I pulled aside at EVERY SINGLE SCREENING POINT for extra special uber screening?!
  • When we got to Detroit from Amsterdam, they made us uncheck and then recheck our baggage, and go through security a couple more times. They said, “The water you got on the last airplane can’t go through because it’s over the 3.4 fluid ounces, so throw it out.” Two things about this: if you know that it came from the last flight, and that we haven’t been able to leave the airport since getting off the plane, why can’t we take it through to the next plane? And if it is a bottle full of BOOM, how does dropping it in the trashcan next to the line help? It can blow up just as many people there as it can on the plane. Anyway, the Detroit airport is its own special brand of hell. Avoid it at all costs. This is me once we finally got through the 18 fresh rounds of security:

Cranky me in Detroit

 

 

Kindness Visits the Danube

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So, I want to talk about two acts of kindness I experienced on my trip down the Danube with my mom. But first, I want to share the way that we brought my dad along on the trip with us. As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, I associate pennies that are heads side up with my dad (complete explanations here here here and here), so we decided to leave pennies around the cities we visited to spread cheer and luck and “make someone verrrrry happy!” #penniesforNick

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But as I mentioned at the start of the blog, I wanted to talk about two acts of kindness, one that was given to me, and one that we were able to perform. The first night on the boat, we settled in for 50’s and 60’s rock night in the lounge with the boat’s piano player. The first tune, while not all that meaningful to me, induced half of the audience to get up and use the dance floor. And again, if you’ve been reading this blog for the last couple years, you know that one of the things I miss most is dancing with my dad. So I teared up watching everyone. I took deep breaths, drank some water, and tried to let it go, singing along to all the songs (based on my knowledge of 50’s and 60’s lyrics, I’m actually about the same age as the majority of the passengers – who knew?). Then the piano player started “When I’m 64,” which choked me up again, because I remembered when my dad played his favorite version of it (Connie Evingson’s) and we were at the beginning of trying to find out what was wrong with him, and he had just turned 65 so the song had taken on a new meaning. But again, I fought through and got Mom to get up and dance with me to it. I was determined not to let it get the best of me. The piano player was equally determined to reduce me to a puddle bourbon-y ooze, though. He played “Yesterday,” which I had performed my first year of college for a showcase with some friends, one of whom was killed by a drunk driver the following year. But still, I held it together. Mostly. But then, oh then, he went into “See Ya Later Alligator.” Are you freaking kidding me?! It’s not like it’s that common a song that I should have expected it. I was undone by it. I ran out to the deck and hid on the stairs and sobbed. Mom came out after a minute or so to check on me and helped me breathe. Until, we heard the music inside turn to “Unforgettable,” you know, the song Natalie Cole sang with her dead father from the first jazz CD my dad ever gave me? I mean really. There was no hope at that point, so we retired to our room.

The next morning, one of the other passengers, who looked like Cameron Diaz by the way, set a notebook that said “Happy Thoughts” on the cover next to me at breakfast, gave me a quick hug, and walked off to eat. Inside, she had written a note about losses she had suffered over the years (including 3 brothers and a husband, and she was only 50) and how she looked for life’s “tender mercies,” seeking out the good that’s still in the world and recording it in a journal like the one she was giving me. Little did she know, I do the same thing. Kindred spirits. When I went out to tour the next day, I found a new blank journal and gave it to her so she wouldn’t be without one on the trip.

So that was the first act of kindness we experienced.

The second one we were able to do for someone else. At several meals, we sat with two women who were really friendly and with whom we had a fair amount in common. On the second to last night, one of them divulged to my mom that she had brought her partner’s ashes with her to scatter somewhere, but hadn’t figured out how and when to do it, and she was running out of time. Mom and I had a small balcony off of our room, so we offered it to her to use. It had rained all evening, but the rain had stopped. It was cool out and there were lightning flashes in the distance, and we were cruising down the Danube past sleepy little villages. So we vacated the room and let her take the time she needed. She seemed relieved when she emerged. I think worrying about how to do it had been weighing on her. But she was able to let that piece of her partner go and know she had fulfilled a promise. And I was grateful to her for trusting us to be, in a tiny way, a part of her journey forward on her own.

I love the phrase “life’s tender mercies” that my shipmate used in her note to me. I love those unexpected kindnesses that can pop up half way around the world. I love that being kind to a stranger is still something worth doing and something that makes you feel good, too. In all the sadness of the past year, I’m grateful that love springs forward from the most unlikely of places. And so we continue on on our own journeys, looking for the light and the lucky pennies.

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