Wordy

Hark! A new book!

The Wordy Book, published by Enchanted Lion is coming soon.

The Wordy Book, as you might have guessed, is bursting, babbling, mumbling and billowing with words, beginning with the endpapers.

The book is a collection of paintings that I made over many years. Each painting is paired with an open ended question.

A word can be savored for its sound and shape as well as for its meaning.

When you hear a word the meaning usually arrives first; sometimes the meaning obliterates the other qualities.

In paintings those other qualities have time to surface; meaning can be fluid. The words bump into each other and they bump into the images in the painting. They ask questions as well as giving answers.

Some of the paintings were created years ago, and they inspired new questions. The Sea of Words was used by the King County Library for their Playing With Words program. What do you sea?

In some of the paintings the question came first and I painted a response to it. What do you see?

Can the inside be bigger than the outside? The dragon has other creatures inside of it, as do we. All of the words in the dragon also have a second word embedded inside them.

In the Ouroboros the end of each word contains the beginning of the next.

Some of the pages are plain silly.

Some ask for more thought.

Is this book for kids? Yes. (Although adults are allowed to enjoy it too.) When I was a child I loved words. A favorite book of mine was Ounce Dice Trice and I itched to read it. I hope my book will scratch that same itch for kids now.

The Wordy Book can be preordered now from your local bookstore, from Enchanted Lion or from Bookshop.org. It will be available in mid August – a good time to notice words, bathe in words, play with words and go astray with words.

p.s. Can you find the tribute to Ounce, Dice, Trice hidden in the endpapers?


p.s.s. Here is what Kirkus has to say about the book:

THE WORDY BOOK[STARRED REVIEW!]

Words and pictures connect in surprising, stimulating ways.

Talk about painting with words. Author/illustrator Paschkis plays with them, too, and encourages readers to do likewise. In the process, she explores the elasticity and seemingly endless possibilities of language. The vividly colored, wittily detailed, folk-style paintings on double-page spreads organically incorporate words into the artwork in wondrous, creative ways. Words frequently repeat in different sizes and colors; illustrated images include words that sound or are shaped like them, are variations of them, rhyme or nearly rhyme with them, sort of resemble them, are sort of spelled like them, etc. A bouquet of flowers in a vase sports roses exuding the scents of slumbersultry, shush, and other evocative words beginning with S; on a daisy’s petals readers find dizzy, doozy, lazy, jazzylief, leap, life, and more decorate the leaves. Delightful words—many of which readers won’t know, and that’s OK—flex vocabulary and spelling muscles to the max and also enhance readers’ visual and auditory senses when the pictures are taken in. Furthermore, the spreads are connected to thought-provoking questions. Some inspired the paintings, or vice versa, and themselves contain examples of wordplay. Persons depicted have diverse skin tones. The book makes a great springboard for creative-thinking activities in writing and art units in classroom and library programs. Keep dictionaries handy. Endpapers abound with swirling words readers can savor (and look up).

In a word, a feast for the eyes, brain, and artistic imagination. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-10)

American Anthem – from idea to published book in 160 days

Philomel associate publisher Jill Santopolo was home on maternity leave when she saw President Joe Biden’s inauguration on TV. She heard him say he hoped “the next chapter in the American story” might sound like one verse in “a song that means a lot to me.” Then he recited:

The work and prayers of centuries / Have brought us to this day.

What shall be our legacy? / What will our children say?

Let me know in my heart that when my days are through

America, America, I gave my best to you.

Biden was quoting the lyrics of Gene Scheer’s American Anthem, a 20-year old song that was sung by opera star Denyce Graves at the memorial service in the Capitol rotunda for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and by Norah Jones in Ken Burns’ 2007 PBS documentary on World War II, The War, among others.

The words resonated with Santopolo. She reflected on her husband’s and her own families’s life trajectories after immigrating to the United States. Then, as she said to Publisher’s Weekly, she decided, “It was a book that I felt I had to do. Especially with a baby at home. There’s a lot we need to work on in this country, but there’s also some wonderful things too. I think that this book celebrates that.”

It was January 20th. Despite a new baby and the pandemic, she wanted the book to launch before the Fourth of July, our nation’s 245th birthday. She envisioned a different illustrator for every spread, so that even in its very make-up the book would reflect the quilt of diversity that is our country. Editor Talia Benamy and art director Ellice Lee swung into action.

My sister Kate and I were honored to be invited to join in. We gave some thought to our family’s American stories, too, including George Chorpenning who founded the first mail service from Salt Lake City to Sacramento, (pre-Pony Express), and our newspaper editor father who taught us about First Amendment rights and flew a big American flag over his office on Main Street Sonora.

What could we say in a single illustration to convey the big feeling of love for America that we shared? How could we ‘give our best’ to America through this project? Our assigned part of the text was: “Know each quiet act of dignity / is that which fortifies / the soul of a nation / that never dies.”

As we considered our text, we thought about where in our lives we experience quiet acts of dignity. Kate immediately thought of the Community Garden, a place where a wide diversity of gardeners come to share the humble work of planting, growing and harvesting. It is a place where gardening knowledge, seedlings and compost are all generously shared — as well as the fruits (and vegetables) of everyone’s labors. There is a quiet dignity in those interactions that respects what each person brings to the garden, as well as a sense of community responsibility.

We are both avid gardeners and that setting seemed right. We poured through scrap to find a lively cast of characters to populate it. Per our usual process, I painted the black lines in gouache resist, scanned and doozied them up in Photoshop. Kate supplied the sumptuous color. And voila! We turned in our illustration by early March and the book was published on schedule as Santopolo planned, in time for the Fourth of July.

It was a revelation to open our first copies of American Anthem, starting with the dedications. Author Scheer and each illustrator contributed one. Some favorites: “To the dream chasers. – Rafael Lopez,” and “For all who call this country home. – Jacquieline Alcantara.” Kate and I dedicated our work “To the growers and grocers, gardeners and gleaners.”

My favorite illustration is by Rafael Lopez. I love the idea of a child drawing his country, imagining it into being. And I hope this book will help children – including Jill Santopolo’s new baby – imagine their futures in America.

Summer Daze

Summer-time reading. It’s the best. Well, except for rainy-day reading and feeling-kind-of-sick, but-not -really, day reading and a-cold-day-in-the-bathtub reading.

When I looked through my collection of art featuring books and writing that felt like summer, I found days of sun-dappled leisure.

Illustration by Javier Navarette

Illustration by Kevin Beers

But, also, more than any other way I’ve categorized these images, summer-time reading seemed to bring out wit and story. So much is in the details.

Love the worm…

Illustration by Mark Long

Love the dog…

Illustration by Jeff Woo

Love the cat.

Illustration by Edward Gan

I appreciate this reflective reader.

Illustration by Elsa Jenna

This shaft of enlightenment.

Illustration by Joost Swarte

The illustrator called this illustration from 1925 Intellectual Summer Holiday

Illustration by Heath Robinson

I remember my teen-friend-sun-bathing reading, but it was usually with a Seventeen Magazine.

Illustration by Pascal Campion

This one just made me smile.

Illustration by Luisa Kelle

Hope everyone has a lovely, not-too-hot, family-and-friends-to-hug, easy-going summer!

On the Art of Construction

First, before we get into the word “construction,” let me just say that June got away from me.

I say that as if June were a rambunctious toddler, but the fact is, I’m actually the toddler, and it’s me that got away from June. Not to mention getting away from time in general since February of 2020. Somehow, a lot of us have been functioning outside the normal tocks and ticks, with both internal and external clocks providing a cuckoo bird to pop out occasionally and announce the state of affairs, but no hands to mark exactly where we are in a given day. Did I say “given day”? Do I even know what day it is?

Bigger question: Should I blame it all on the pandemic? No, I should not. I’m getting older – there’s that. Still, the pandemic didn’t help. But it might have been wise to keep an actual calendar on the wall and turn the pages. At least then I would have seen the lay of the land, with Sunday standing solidly at one end of a week and Saturday standing just as solidly at the other end, with rows of weeks stacking up one after another, and with a substantial oomph to the accumulation, also known as “months.”

Instead, I’ve been keeping my calendar on my iPad lately, and things are different in iPad World. They have a different shape. Less oomph. Less turn-the-page-ability, more spillage of May into June, etc.

So, should I blame my losing June (June losing me) on my electronic calendar? No, I should not. I will blame it on construction equipment. Excavators, lumber deliverers, Mack trucks! At my house to build an addition to the nest.

Mack trucks mean business.

I’ve been eating, sleeping, dreaming, breathing construction progress. We had a big crane come up the alley in May and move our outdoor studio from one part of the yard to another. Lost an asparagus bed and some raspberry plants, very sad, but a thrilling moment when the 12×12 structure was lifted off one foundation and put onto another. Like a great clumsy bird flying low to the ground. Or more like a big baby being carried in straps and swaddling by an equally big stork.

Baby studio about to lift off.

An excavator came and dug a somewhat precise hole. Our garden lost its adolescent golden chain tree, but holes are fascinating, too. I managed to save the pink dogwood and the white hydrangea paniculata at the edge of the hole. Whew.

What we called the Big Digger.

Then the foundation forms were built in the hole and a cement truck came to the front of the house, accompanied by another truck with a 90-foot crane/hose to deliver the cement up and over the house and into the back yard from the cement truck. Neighbors came to watch. Fast work, loud and messy and exciting. Very carnivalesque.

The talk of the neighborhood.

Then our builder went for a ride on his mountain bike, fell coming down a dangerous trail, broke his collarbone, had to walk out on his own, was taken to the hospital, had surgery. Real life came back into focus. The next day he’s walking around with his arm in a sling and making sure his assistant knows what needs to be done. The man is a sweet lunatic. And he loves building houses.

Next the sill is then nailed in place (I hope I have the terminology right!) and plywood subfloors go on and it starts to look like a bedroom. Walls even start to go up. As of the moment I’m typing this, the room awaits more walls and trusses and a roof and shingles and and and and and. And that is how I lost June.

I love our construction team. Bravo! I could sit all day and watch them work.

I wish I had taken woodshop in high school but that just wasn’t “done” in the 1960’s. So my brother learned how to swing a hammer and use a skill saw; he worked in a lumberyard and basically built a second floor on to his house one summer. I, meanwhile, studied literature, read poetry, and learned to construct both Elizabethan and Petrarchan sonnets. People call what I do “creative” and what our construction crew does “manual labor.” I know for a fact that both our efforts demand blood, sweat and tears. Well, not blood, hopefully. We’ll save that for mountain biking accidents. But definitely sweat and tears.

I’m tempted to offer up comparisons between the building of a house and the writing of a book – the design work, prep work, foundational work, the structural considerations, the progress forward, the big Mack truck of a deadline bearing down on you, the dozens of first decisions and final decisions, the trance-like condition of creating something that makes you lose track of hours and days. The joy you feel when you’ve made something that will stand the test of time.

Poetry and house-building. Many similarities between these two arts.

i.e. gallery show

A solo show of my paintings will be at the i.e. gallery in Edison, WA. for the month of June, opening this Saturday June 5th from 2-4 PM.

Here are many of the paintings for those of you who can’t visit in real life.

My paintings have always been connected to my work as a children’s book illustrator. Most of my paintings tell stories although they don’t have manuscripts. You can make up your own stories when you see them.
This show includes a few series of work done over the past several years, before and during Covid isolation.

One group of paintings began with this character whom I call Aurinko (the Finnish word for sun). In this painting she has lots of feet so that she can travel far. Those feet were inspired by a Catalan print of La Vella Quaresma that hangs in the kitchen of my friends Karel and Nancy.

I imagined her in different settings and seasons (and with varying numbers of legs and heads).

I painted this series using a dip pen and waterproof ink, then added color. Here is a detail. What is summer without bugs?

The Fishermoon soon joined Aurinko.

And the mermaid. And various other creatures of the woods and waterways.

Another group of paintings was painted with gouache and pinpricks. These were from the heart of the pandemic – a time of isolation.

Here is a detail:

Another series is gouache and collage with simple shapes and bold colors.The paper for the collage elements is hand-painted. I began this series in 2019 and have continued because the strong colors feed me.

Here is a detail:

I made designs for giant enamel panels for Sound Transit in 2020 with this technique, playing with the idea of transportation. I will be redesigning them to be mosaics, so these paintings could be included in the show. You might recognize the influence of La Vella Quaresma again. Unlike that story, my character gets to keep and use her legs. She even gets new shoes.

The Skagit Valley is a wonderful place to ride your bicycle.

I hope that by bike, car or foot you can see the show in real life, or visit the i.e. website to see more work. Thank you.

On the last day of the show (Sunday June 27) I will be teaching a workshop where we will make paper lanterns. For more information on the workshop please click here.

Ocean Lullaby First Reading Delayed

Our family is weathering a sad event: my husband John’s younger sister Barbara died on May 16. Among other things, she will be remembered for her humor, her lively black eyes and her New Jersey accent, (she pronounced her name ‘Bobbra’).

Which is a long way to say we are going to postpone the June 1 first public reading of Ocean Lullaby that was to take place via zoom from Green Bean Books – until July or later.

I will let you know the new date when arrangements are set.

Meanwhile, enjoy the trailer John made, with music by our son Tim, played by Tim on slide guitar and his friend Coke Youngblood on acoustic.

All best,

Laura

Bring out the toys and the dreams

Maybe it’s burnout from the quarantine or the accumulation of years of working or maybe I’m just extra aware these days, but so many people around me are wishing that they could get back to play and to joy, not only in their lives, but in their work.

Back in March for Books Around the Table, I wrote about some of the ideas that children’s author Laurel Snyder shared about how she brought play back into her work. Check it out here.

Here’s a grab bag of some of Snyder’s other suggestions

Back to the toy box

Remember those dolls you loved as a kid? Or the stuffed animals or the Legos or the GI Joe doll? If you’re reading this, you’re probably a storyteller and that’s what your toys were all about. Stories. Adventures. Created worlds. According to Snyder, maybe it’s time to bring them back into your life.

Snyder’s particular love as a child was paper dolls to the point where she made her own. She also loved all kinds of other dolls from the chubby cheeks of Madame Alexander dolls to Barbie’s sculpted cheekbones. In her grown-up office, she has a doll house where she routinely creates different scenarios. I couldn’t quite determine if the scenarios always related to a book she was working on or if the dolls were having a life of their own in that house. Either way, childhoods toys can bring back pure play into the art of storytelling.

Time travel

Remember how it felt to be called to the front of the class to give a report? Or when your best friend was suddenly with someone else at recess? Or the first time someone you actually knew actually died? 

Some people can readily put themselves back into their childhoods. Some of us think we can, but maybe we’ve forgotten the real intensity of what we felt or the questions and worries that flooded our minds. 

One way to get back the feelings of childhood is to put yourself back there. You can dream yourself back there through thoughtful remembering. But even better, how about getting down on the ground and back into a childhood perspective? What comes back if you sit under the dining room table? What happens to time if you lie on the grass and study that scrambling ant all the way back to the nest? What’s it like to sit on your kitchen floor and stare up at that glass on the counter? What would it feel like to reach for it with the very tips of your fingers?

Once in awhile I get back to my hometown of Wenatchee and drive by the house I grew up in. I’m lucky. My neighborhood was declared an historic district and there is an effort to preserve the houses there, so it looks much the same as it did when I was a child. So much comes flooding back on those visits. How long has it been since your visited a place from your childhood or looked at those old report cards or took out that crumbling prom corsage?

Keep a story box

JK Rowling did this for her first Harry Potter book. She kept a box (eventually a pretty big box) full of writing—random thoughts, inspirations, scenes, details on scraps of paper. It included hundreds of ideas about the world she was creating–the look of a character, the rules of magic,  major plot turns, interesting names. This is what she turned to when she started work on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

For your story box, Snyder suggests mementos. A stone from the beach that your character lives on or an oddity that simply, for now, just intrigues you or a button that might go on the great-aunt’s dress. The idea is another way to get at what it is you’re trying to do with your story, through the fun of simply collecting interesting things.

Enter your world through its small details

I loved this bit of advice from Snyder. We can spend a lot of our time picturing the castle, the mountain pass, the monsters and the maps of our world, but maybe we can enter it even more fully through the knickknack on the Queen’s bedside table. 

The details are so much fun to dream about. They don’t require quite the same effort as setting up a tricky plot turn. E.B. White devoted entire lovely paragraphs to the details of Charlotte’s world. I just have to believe it was his love of that sleeping barn and the smells and the sounds that really informed the entire story of Charlotte’s Web from the wonderful characters of Templeton or the geese to Wilbur’s love of slops and leisure to the general sense of love and affection that infused the entire tone and voice of the book. I bet it all began with the smell of manure and hay, and the warmth of that patch of sunlight on the broad back of a pig.

Delicious Too

Last week Julie Larios wrote here about our new book Delicious.

Her poems are tasty, and it was a pleasure to illustrate them.

It was a pleasure that lasted for a decade! Delicious celebrates street food, much of which is fast, but creating the book was slow. I loved her idea and poems when I first heard them in 2011. I then created sample illustrations using the technique of papercutting.

Julie and I submitted the book for publication in 2012 but the world was not hungry for it yet.

Years later Allyn Johnson at Beachlane had an appetite for this project but wanted paintings not papercuts.

With this painting I figured out my new approach. I began with Julie’s Oaxaca poem because of my deep love for the place – its art and food. (Here and here are links to other posts I have written about Oaxaca.)

Painting the images for this book was a trip around the world. It involved research about the food and also about the places. For example for the illustration about Senegal I looked at pictures of baobab fruit, bouye, bissap water and lots of Senegalese textiles which I referenced in the border and also in the bark of the trees.

SUMMER DAY (Dakar, Senegal)


Cousin, cousin – cold bouye?

Cold bouye from the baobab tree?

And icy bissap water for me.

………………………………………………………………

My imaginary visit to Korea included kimchee and kites.

BEST FRIENDS (Seoul, South Korea)

First full moon day, time to play

You and I with kites in the sky.

Auntie brings us market meals:

mandu for you,

kimchee for me.

………………………………………….

Food is joyful. Food is necessary. Food is a way to keep culture alive and to connect cultures. In my illustrations I celebrate each unique place as well as the food.

After many years of cooking, this feast is ready. Hot dog!

STADIUM DOG (Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Franks with relish

at Fenway Park,

going, going, gone-

and home before dark.

……………………..

I hope that Delicious will lead to real shared meals and experiences. You can purchase the book many places including Elliott Bay Books here.

………………………………….

What a DELICIOUS day!

I’m so happy to tell everyone reading Books Around the Table today that my latest picture book collaboration with illustrator Julie Paschkis is now officially out in the worldDelicious: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World has been published by Beach Lane Books! Big shout hurrah, huzza, yippee and yay!! And a big thanks to editor Allyn Johnston for the fine work her team did in making this a real, hold-in-your-hands book.

“Out in the world” is exactly where this book lives – New York City, Oaxaca, Jaffa, Marrakech, Launceton, St. Petersburg, Lima, Mumbai, Surabaya, Seoul, Athens, Dakar, Beijing, and Boston, to be exact. And there could have been so many more cities, each one with its own rich stories about traditional street food. Choosing just fourteen poems to fit the picture book format was hard! So many beautiful cities, so much delicious food. I wrote one of the poems to honor many of the foods at once.

“Syrian shawarma wrapped in a pita? / Biryani? Pork carnitas? / Maybe I’ll get a hot falafel? / Schnitzel? Pretzel? Sesame noodles? / Cajun? Lebanese? Cuban? Thai? / So many choices! What should I try?”

I set “Carts in the Park” in New York City, where doors open wide to many immigrants and many kinds of street food (thinking of hot pretzels covered with mustard, a hot dog in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and divine biryani one night after a show in the Theater District.) But my own personal experience with this kind of gathering of food carts is Portland, Oregon, a city that in the past has supported a whole city block of food carts downtown, as well as mini-parks full of carts in other neighborhoods. I hear a big apartment building might be built on the food cart block – say it ain’t so, Portland! We need some food cart advocates. Maybe this book and others like it will help ensure another generation of food cart lovers?

Food carts in downtown Portland

When you travel, do you come home with memories of unexpected moments with a local food seller? A small conversation, a delicious bite of traditional street food? I suspect you do, I hope you do, because those memories stay with you and become part of your family lore, don’t they? My best memories of Mexico, aside from visiting my husband’s family, are from the lively markets and the street carts – hot corn on the cob covered in chile sauce, all-you-can-drink orange juice, sweet peanut brittle, morning tamales, fruit juice popsicles, churros, cocoa, and – yes – deep fried grasshoppers. The poem I wrote for Oaxaca comes straight up from my love of the kind and hard-working Mexican street vendors I’ve met.

“Steaming cup of champurrado / panecitos, cinnamon churros — / mmm, mmm! Delicioso! / Lovebirds chirp: Pio! Pio!”

This is my fourth book with Julie Paschkis, and when the box of author copies arrived at my door, I said my usual hallelujah for Julie’s energy and vision, her talent, and – most important – her friendship. With this book in particular, I thank her and my other Books Around the Table friends for their patience and support – this book was a long time coming! Many first versions of the poems were just too long for a picture book collection (one stand-alone poem about Mexican markets was highlighted in 2010 in a blog post by Jama Kim Rattigan – eleven years ago this month!) so the project came to a standstill. I even put the manuscript away for a number of years, busy with my teaching at Vermont College of Fine Arts. But it kept sneaking out of that drawer in my desk, and it really does help to have an encouraging and supportive writers group to keep your spirits up. Thank you, Laura, Julie P., Margaret and Bonny.

I’m hoping someday I’ll get to St. Petersburg….“Four pelmeni / three piroshki / two sweet blini — / one big belly.”

And hoping I’ll get to Lima …. “From a tin tray / on parade day / to celebrate the Lord of Miracles — / star cookies, pink sprinkles!”

And to Marrakech. And to Athens. And…and…and….

Can you tell I’m aching to travel again? Fingers crossed. Vaccinated, wearing my mask, dreaming of Oaxaca.

Paprika Coloring Book

Last spring I started creating coloring pages and posting them on my website here. It was a way for me to offer something to people who were suddenly home all the time (kids and adults). And it was a way to steady myself in a wobbling world.

Now, a year later, I have posted more than 150 drawing pages. They are all available to download for free here.

Recently I picked 21 of my favorite pages and made a new coloring book.

You can buy the coloring book at JuliePaprika for $10. (Click here). The pages can be colored with pencils, crayons, markers or paint.

You can make up your own stories for the images as you add color.

Because I used to be an art teacher, I hope that you will also make your own drawings from scratch. Here are a few prompts for starting a drawing. These are some of the ways I jump start myself.

DRAWING PROMPTS:

  1. Draw a shape and repeat it many times. Then decorate that shape with doodles.

2. Draw a straight line. Connect another line to it. Keep adding lines and see what happens. Various dimensions might appear.

3. Write a word so that the letters fill the whole page. Decorate the letters.

4. Draw something that is laying around your house. Don’t worry if your drawing is wonky or strange. If you wanted a perfect picture you could take a photograph.

5. Draw a line and repeat a similar line next to it, over and over. You can do it with many shapes (like these leaves), or just one shape over and over. The little irregularities and variations of the line as it repeats will make your drawing interesting.

I hope that you will have fun creating your own drawings, and adding color to mine. And I hope that as the world opens up there is still time to draw or be contemplative in other ways.

p.s. Today’s blogpost comes with dessert. Here is a recipe/painting of strawberry rhubarb pie by my niece Zoe Paschkis. You can see more of Zoe’s work on Instagram ( click HERE) or Etsy (HERE).