Picking up the Pace on all the Projects

A few weeks ago I posted the first sketches from Strength of Wild Horses. Today I got to peek at the first finished pieces.

Isn’t it beautiful? Look at all the colors. Angela’s use of color astounds me every time. I’ve seen scans for about a third of the images. I am so happy to see each of these pictures and really excited to see the rest. The rest are coming soon. This means that tomorrow I have images to start putting on the Kickstarter page. Of course tomorrow I’m also making sure Kiki gets back on the bus to college, talking to insurance agents on the phone, working on LOTA, going my visiting teaching, helping kids with homework, and attending pack meeting. In fact all my days for the next few weeks are like a spinning plate act while I try to keep all of the projects on track so that they can hit their deadlines.

I don’t mind. All of the projects are happy ones, and Strength of Wild Horses is probably the happiest of all, because it is mine and Angela’s. Just look at the beautiful picture that Angela made. There are going to be thirty more like it. I am so excited to be putting this book out where other people can love it too.

Nearing Completion on the Jay Wake Book

I’m almost done with the layout for the Jay Wake Book. I’ve still got a few pieces to place and I’m still waiting on a few more pieces from others, but I can see completion from here. After this there is test printing and tweaking before it is released for the public. I have been awed and honored to be part of this project and when I release it, it will feel like the time I held one of my Aunt’s pigeons then let it fly. I never owned the bird, I was just privileged to hold it for awhile before it took to the sky.

Kicking Into Gear for Strength of Wild Horses

Yesterday I got an email with all the storyboards for Strength of Wild Horses. (The sequel to my picture book Hold on to Your Horses.) Once again Angela has created vibrant images which capture the story. They’re only sketches with words pasted on the top, but they let me really see how the completed book will look. I fired back a happy email to say they were delightful. The response let me know that once I approve these sketches, we’re only about two weeks (or less) away from me having completed artwork in my hands. Eeep. I mean Yay, because I am so excited for this book to be real, but it moves me from calmly waiting for art to be done into the part where I have to step up and make the project happen. In the next weeks I have to assemble a full Kickstarter campaign. I’ll have to run it. And I’ll get to ride the emotional roller coaster of watching it fund or fail.

This morning I sat down and carefully looked through the sketches with a critical eye. I approved almost all of them. There are a couple of pages where the words and pictures are not quite working together the way that they need to be. So Angela will give me new sketches for those. In the meantime, I’m beginning to take steps to run and promote the Kickstarter. I dusted off the preliminary page I created last spring. I need to do a lot more with it. Since the thought of shooting a video felt too scary (and I really ought to wait until I have some final art for it anyway) I went over to MailChimp and set up a mailing list. Now anyone who wants updates and press releases from me can go sign up. I promise not to be spammy, though I’ll definitely be sending email about the Kickstarter when it goes live. At some point later this week I’ll figure out how to put a link to the sign up in one of my blog sidebars. Probably to the right, where I list my twitter handles and social media groups. There is also the Hold on to Your Horses Facebook page, which will host many announcements for the coming Kickstarter and also currently has a sneak preview sketch.

It is always tricky to balance a promotional push without being annoying. I can feel like I’m shouting out to everyone, I can be a nuisance to some people, and there will still be people who come to me weeks later and say “How come I didn’t know about this?” I shall endeavor to do as much as I can to make sure that my social media announcements are in themselves somewhat interesting rather than just announcements and begging.

The most important thing for me to remember as I begin the scary process of putting my project out there for others to support (or not) is how much I love and believe in this book. Creating Strength of Wild Horses is not about making money or even about furthering my writing career. It is about getting to be part of something amazing. I get to provide a forum for others to appreciate Angela’s amazing art. I get to put another story into the hands of families and children who fell in love with Amy through Hold on to Your Horses. And perhaps most of all, I get to see Amy come alive again with a brand new adventure where she learns what wild idea horses are good for.

Angela feels a little reluctant to release sketches because she wants her art complete before it goes out in the world, but I have permission to show a few. This is only a concept sketch, but it makes me very happy because I see Amy again and I realize how much I missed her.

The Butterfly Dress Photos

I promised to let all of you see the photographer’s shots of Kiki wearing the butterfly dress. Here they are along with appropriate credit for those involved.

My original write up of the photo shoot can be found here. It has pictures that I took.
The butterfly dress was created by Rebekah McKinney
Kiki’s hair was done by Ashley of 9 Salon and Spa
Kiki’s make up was done by Sammie of 9 Salon and spa
The photography was done by Gary of Meaux Photography




Kiki and the Photo Shoot

When someone says they are a model, it conjures images of a beautiful person who is dressed up fancy, gets a lot of attention, and sometimes fame or wealth as well. Those thoughts about modelling are products of the post-supermodel era that we live in. Prior to the supermodels of the 70’s, modelling was not about fame. Yesterday I accompanied my daughter Kiki on what turned out to be 8 hours of modelling work. It showed both of us that the real work of a model is not the be the center of attention and adulation, but to be a blank canvas or a mannequin upon which someone else hangs a concept. The shoot that Kiki posed for was an art shoot, so every step of the process aimed to create an effect. The final photographs are fascinating and compelling, but they do not in any way represent Kiki even though it is her face. The same is true of commercial shoots, where models are dressed in casual clothes and are smiling. Those models are still subsuming who they are to present an image that will attract buyers to purchase the item being advertised. Modelling is not about being the center of attention, which is not something I fully realized until yesterday.

Kiki was told to show up with no makeup and clean hair. The stylists needed a clean slate, a blank canvas.

The array of tools for make up was astonishing. I wish I’d gotten a shot of this table after the make up was applied. It was a complete jumbled mess which contrasted with the array in the picture.

The photo shoot was arranged by Rebekah McKinney who designed and made the dress that Kiki wore. Rebekah has become a friend of our family over the past year, enough so that Kiki felt comfortable asking to borrow the dress to wear for Prom, but once the dress was altered, everyone wanted to get some fun pictures of Kiki wearing it. So Beckie arranged for two stylists and a photographer. The stylists worked at 9 Salon and Spa. The photographer was Gary of Meaux Photography. I’ll have pictures from him to post later after he’s done processing. All the pictures in this post are ones that I took.

Every time Kiki and I thought things looked done, the stylists would add more: more hair, more sparkles, more eye liner, more lashes. I think the hair was Kiki’s biggest surprise. She has so much hair of her own that she was astonished that hair pieces could possibly be necessary. Before the stylists were done, they’d added a volume of hair approximately equal to a cat, in four colors.

There were some stages where the hair looked like something from an 80’s band.

After four hours of hair and make up, we paused long enough for Kiki to eat then made her sit down for another half hour of make up. Kiki was enjoying the process, though she confessed afterward that some stages of the hairdo made her wonder if anyone knew what they were doing. She also still has some sore spots on her head because the stylist pulled hard while braiding. Things got fun again at the photography studio.

We were extremely fortunate in our photographer. He coached Kiki, explaining to her that he was trying to create an S shape in each shot and how that was usually achieved using a human body. He also explained that she should make small moves when adjusting her body, because lots of small corrections would create the right effect.

My favorite moments were when the photographer said “relax” and then held the camera so Kiki could see the photo.

Kiki would melt out of her self-effaced art pose and become a girl who bounced from excitement. She would view the photo with her artist’s eye and see how a pose which felt awkward, yielded a highly effective image.

The photographer did not take any pictures of Kiki smiling. I did. Because I like her smiling, even if it ruins the artsy effect.

Also, sometimes she was a punk and made faces.

Yet I was impressed, even with Beckie and I poking fun at her, Kiki would quell her giggles and get back to striking the requested pose. One of the reasons this experience was so fun is that we were working with people who are very good at what they do, but who also don’t take themselves too seriously. The designer, stylists, and photographer were all fashion people who know that there is an element of the ridiculous involved with fashion. We all embraced the ridiculous and had fun.

I did have one concern about my daughter modelling. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about how much value and emphasis US society puts on physical beauty, particularly for women. I feel it is very important that women know that beauty is not required to be a valued and valuable person. Kiki has always been beautiful, both physically in ways that are recognized by society, and in her mind and heart. This photo shoot showed Kiki her own beauty in a way that she had never seen it before. Seeing that changes her own mental image of herself, and I was concerned about the shape of that change.

We talked afterward, as I was carefully unpinning and untangling all the extra pieces of hair to separate them from her own. This experience has been completely positive for her. She sees and understands now how very constructed all those media images are, that they are creations of concept, not reflections of a reality to which we should aspire. She’ll look at catalogs and remember the ache in her back from when she leaned the same way. Because of this photo shoot she is more able to see the artifice and know that it isn’t sustainable for any length of time. She is best off being herself in clothes that are livable. That’s a pretty good lesson for a girl who is launching into adulthood on her next birthday only weeks from now.

This is my favorite shot from the day.

It is the moment when Kiki had to figure out how to fit all of that skirt into the seat of a car. I love it because it catches her smile and catches a moment when the very ridiculousness of the beauty made us all laugh.

Placeholder for the Post about a Photography Shoot

Kiki and I spent eight hours of today participating in a photo shoot. Kiki was the model. I have many thoughts about this experience and some pictures to share. Unfortunately my brain is not making good words right now. I am too tired. I’m really glad we got to do this.

Attending a Concert

It was an excuse to dress in fancy clothes, which concert we picked was an after thought to that original purpose. My friend and I both lamented that our lives did not have enough reasons to be pretty, so we created one. That decided, we selected a Utah Symphony concert. We left early so that we had plenty of time to travel and find parking. We talked of various things on the way there, but our discussion turned to umbrellas when the first fat drops of rain hit the windshield. Neither of us had one, but we agreed that a little rain would not hurt us. We parked the car and still had an hour until concert time, so we walked to Temple Square.

The Christmas lights on temple square are a popular destination in December. The rain had cleared out the crowds some, which meant that we were able to see the lights reflected on wet pavements as well as shining over our heads. We stepped inside the Tabernacle because I love historic buildings. A man was playing songs at the organ, but we did not stay long. Our evening would have music later. We wanted someone to take a picture of us together in our lovely clothes, so we walked over to the visitors center.

I heard the sounds rising from a floor below. It was obviously a choir, but there were multiple tempos and discordant notes involved. Some of the voices sang away making up words as they went. I cringed inside. Who on earth selected such a choir to sing on Temple Square during the holiday season? I stepped down the stairs, and breathed “Oh.” I never knew before how much a sight could change a sound so completely. The faces of the choir were beautiful, happy, Down’s Syndrome, differently abled, did I say beautiful? The music they made brought tears to my eyes because by seeing them I remembered to listen to the joy instead of the notes.

We arrived at the concert hall wet, and a little footsore. Abravanel Hall was designed as a concert space. The whole thing is built like the cone of a speaker and everywhere I looked there was wood. I loved the feel of it. Once I came home I learned trivia like the fact that cello and base players are encouraged to make holes in the stage so that their instruments will resonate through the wood of the stage.

I watched the conductor as he gestured with his entire body. I watched the musicians as they responded in unison. All of them joined together, so practiced that they become one until the music ends. The conductor was emphatic, gentle, vigorous, smooth, sharp, and soft. I watched his hands and back, realizing that every motion was speaking to the orchestra in a language I do not speak. Sometimes I could discern meanings, but mostly I could just tell that communication was taking place.

I know the terms fugue, cantata, symphony, chorale, I can even look up the definitions, but I have not studied the forms. I can not listen to the first few minutes of music and know which themes will come back. I felt the beauty of the music, but I missed so much nuance. Without advance preparation, I did not understand the stories of the pieces. All I was left with is knowing I’d been in the presence of something remarkable, but not being able to explain what or why. I know the violin soloist was virtuoso, particularly for one so young, but I did not have the appreciation of my friend who grew up with music and played the violin as a girl.

We talked about music on the way home. My friend feels music inside and doesn’t need it to have words. I appreciate music most when it exists in support of stories, whether those stories be in dance, song, or acting. I learned songs at an alarming rate during my growing years. I loved the blending of sound and story to create something lovely. Music without story is more difficult for me to comprehend and appreciate. This is not something I knew about myself until tonight.

All the kids were still awake when I arrived home, but they vanished into sleep soon after. I got to sit in the kitchen and tell my visiting sister about the fun time I had with my friend. The concert was scheduled long before I knew my sister would be in town this weekend. Also there were brownies. I always recommend coming home to a plate of brownies after a concert.

The dangerous thing about going to a concert is that now I want to go to many more of them. I want to see live performances, dance, plays. I shall have to pick and choose, the tickets are not cheap. I also want to make another trip to Temple Square. Gleek has been really wanting to see the Christmas lights. I should learn how to ride the Trax train and make a day of going to see Temple Square with her. She would love it. There is a special feel the moment I enter.

It is now long past late and headed toward early, but I did not want to let my concert thoughts escape me. I know they will synthesize and change during sleep. This is good, perhaps tomorrow I’ll have even more things to say about the lovely evening I just had.

Seeking for Meaning

I picked up a copy of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I know I read it long ago when I was a freshman in college, but I wanted to reacquaint myself with the words of this woman who was writing creative nonfiction before I ever knew there was such a thing. I’ve just barely begun to read it. I’m impressed with the way she compresses ideas into sentences and seems to abandon a theme only to bring it back later. Mostly though, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to have a life where I could go visit an island in the middle of a creek every day. Not just visit it, but spend hours there thinking long thoughts about life and meaning. It almost makes me want to read a biography of Dillard. How did she pay her bills while pilgrimageing to and from Tinker Creek? Did her other life obligations just not make it into her words, or was she like Thoreau who deliberately created a space separate from regular life so that he could experience it, think about it, and write it? I’ve always meant to read Thoreau’s Walden Pond, but just now I think I need to find voices which discuss finding serenity in the middle of things rather than leaving all things to find serenity. There are lessons to be learned in the abandonment of things, the foremost being that many essentials aren’t as necessary as we think. But at least four of my “things” are children and I could not live with myself if I failed them because I sought some separate peace.

My life is full of trivia, small errands, debris on the carpet, and spills hardened on the counter tops. It is hard to pull a sense of connection from a spill on the counter in the way that Dillard connects a fast flowing creek with ideas of struggle and grand truths. Somehow nature lends itself to slow thoughts, big ideas. Mostly the spill on the counter means it is time to clean again. A month ago we got away by visiting Fremont Indian State Park where I looked at tools and clothes crafted by the hands of Native Americans long before my grandmother was born. I marveled at what they created and pictured how they used those creations. I saw carvings on the rocks of the canyon and pondered the devotion of the artist who worked there. Then I come home to plastic and molded metal. These things are no less marvelous. They represent feats of skill and engineering. That plastic toy from a fast food meal represents the combined knowledge, experimentation, and labor of hundreds or even thousands of people. It exists because those people shared their knowledge with each other and worked together to create a society where plastic toys are so common that they end up in the trash. There are definitely points to make about wastefulness and entitlement, yet I don’t know that every Native American moccasin maker was focused on art either.

Dillard and Thoreau sought truths in nature. I tend to seek them in faith, community, and nature in domestic doses. Though sometimes I even find truth while doing dishes and laundry. I think truth and meaning aren’t in things at all. Truth and meaning are in the people who take time to ponder the world around them. I don’t have to run away to find miracles and lessons. Though sometimes getting away and coming back gives me new perspectives, which I suppose is what Dillard and Thoreau were doing on a grand scale. I can think beautiful thoughts and write beautiful words from where I am. The value in a pilgrimage is what the traveler gives to it and gains from it, not in the miles traversed.

Pretty Things in Washington D.C.

One of the things I hoped for in attending the Nebula weekend was to see beauty. There was lots of it, which is to be expected in a city as consciously created as Washington D.C. There was also much consciously created beauty on the night of the Nebula awards. The dressy clothing was a feast to the eye and part of me wishes I’d spent my evening playing photographer. Another part is quite glad I spent my time talking instead.

Nancy and I both dressed up for the evening.

I’ve discovered that I love dresses where the motion of them is part of the beauty. This means that static shots such as this one do not show the dress to best advantage. That top flowed as I moved. It also had the advantage of being incredibly comfortable, always a plus on a high-tension night.

Nancy also posed with other lovely people, such as Mary Robinette Kowal and Sheila Williams.

After that photo, my camera was put away for the evening. However my day touring in D.C. was filled with photography. When I say that D.C. is a consciously created city, I am not kidding. There is attention in every detail. I need to write up a separate post about the monuments, but I was out walking and I would see things like this entrance walkway to the Federal Triangle metro station.
I could just picture carriages being pulled along those cobblestones. I love that the lanterns were freshly painted with black and gold.

Another of the places I went was the botanical gardens, again there needs to be a whole post about why that stop was important to me, in the meantime here are a couple of small pretty things I saw while there.

The bumblebee was quite obliging. He went about his business and let me get my camera mere inches from his head.

I also went the the National Museum of Art, which is completely full of pretty things. I’m afraid I frustrated our docent, though. She rattled of information about paintings to explain their significance and why they were impressive. I kept pausing to take pictures of floors, frames, and random architectural details. In part it was a rebel streak which was irritated by being instructed what to find impressive, in other part, the details were fascinating.
This table was not a work of art on display. It was just a table that had been placed into the room to provide furniture.

Many of the frames fascinated me. They were works of art in themselves, particularly the ones which were obviously custom made for the piece in question.

I wonder what went through the mind of the artisan who made this frame. Was it a sacred commission or just a job?

Even in the most famous paintings, my eyes were drawn to little details.

Everywhere I looked all weekend long there were small beautiful details, earrings, lamps, smiles, curls, flowers, the scent of honeysuckle in the air. Then I came home to my pretty things here and that was good too.

My Projects and Lists for Saturday

Last night I went to bed with a list of things I was excited to get done today. So I bounced out of bed at 9 am to get started. I began with a trip to Home Depot to buy some cobbles. I came home with cobble-ish pavers. I’ll probably have to go to a stone company to get pretty cobbles. But with five cobbles I could do some practice photography. My sampler book is going to need a cover. So far this is what I’ve got:

Things I like about it:

  • The trowel implies a person. It also implies work. Both of these things are part of my book.
  • The cobbles in the background give depth and possibly imply a path or a journey. I would like my cover to imply a journey.
  • The sprouting tulips imply growth. Much of the content of the book is about growth. However there are no blooms yet, just the beginnings of growth. Blooms are finished, these plants are just getting started.
  • I kind of like the bare ground and winter grass as well.

Things I don’t like:

  • I’m not sure how to blend this into a cover image. I don’t really want to just bleed it off the edges of the cover.
  • There isn’t a clear space for a title. The grassy spaces will tend to obscure the title.
  • This picture screams “gardening” and while I do mention gardening, my blog sampler is not about gardening.
  • The pavers are not really cobbles. They aren’t natural stones and they aren’t all that attractive.
  • My blog talks a lot about parenting and nothing in this image implies parenting. (Or business, which I also talk about. But I really don’t want my cover to imply business.)

So, I’m not sure if I’ve got anything usable. Perhaps I’ll make a trip to a stone company and spend twenty dollars getting some pretty rocks. However if I want to use the sprouting tulips I need to hurry. They could start blooming as soon as next week. I may try doing some “studio” shots of trowel and cobbles against a drop cloth to see what that yields. In the end I suspect that the cover will be something I pull together, am not completely happy with, but will deem “good enough” because I simply don’t have the skills and expertise (nor the time) to make it better. This is one of the things I don’t like about self publishing, knowing it could have been better if I had more training.

So I turned to the words of my sampler book. I’m gleaning through last year’s blog entries and pulling the ones I think are entertaining / representative / useful. I’ve reached June and I’ve got 30 pages or 13,000 words. I’m hoping to make my sampler book slim. I figure it needs to be around 20,000 words. I’ll grab more than that and then choose and rearrange. Two good friends have volunteered to help me critique and edit. I’ve got a lead on a really good copy editor as well. Time is short, but I’m fairly confident I can get this thing done. If I hurry. So I pulled entries until my eyes crossed.

Then I escaped my house and returned to the Beauty in Belief exhibit. I didn’t go through it again. I just snagged a pair of ear rings from the gift shop that I’ve been thinking about ever since last Tuesday. They’re filigree leaves with Arabic script on them saying “The best people are those who help other people.” They are lovely and make my heart glad. While I was there I took a moment to close my eyes and listen to the chanting music again. It warmed my heart.

Now it is 5:30 pm. I discover that I’m not excited about the house cleaning aspects of last night’s list. I’d love to have the house be clean, but the motivation to do the work has gone missing. Instead I’ll probably delve my way through June looking for blog entries to pull. Hopefully tomorrow will bless me with energy and motivation to put my house in order.