Monthly Archives: July 2018

Pals

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At the Waterslides, Summer 2018

My daughter and grandson have been visiting this week from the East Coast just outside Boston. I worried about whether my grandson would have enough to do while visiting, but – as you see – kids find other kids and off they go. Five hours yesterday in the blistering heat at Birch Bay Water Slides (“Where the Sun Always Shines”) —what’s not to love?

Why am I posting this photo? Just wanted to remind myself of who I write for. I can get isolated at my desk while I write; it’s refreshing to be with kids when I’m stuck for a story or when I run out of juice – it’s good to be where I can hear them laugh, or where I can listen to the stories they tell me.

Some of us write for the boy with an undercurrent of shyness, some for the kid with 60’s hair and a wild flag swim suit. Sometimes we write for the kid with a summer buzz-cut who is willing to pause for a photo for his grandmother when he’s dying to get back to the slides.

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We write for the kid who is shivering. The kid laughing. We write for kids of every imaginable shape and size. Kids at summer camp who miss home.  Kids for whom summer camp is only a dream. Kids having chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream cones melting too fast to keep them from dripping all down their arms. Kids visitng libraries and signing up for summer reading programs. Kids with pals…and kids without. Kids who remind us of ourselves. Sometimes for kids whose troubles make our hearts ache. Other times for kids who make us believe in the world again.

Spend a summer day with kids and have a ball. Laugh a little with them. Listen. Think about the energy they have.  We write for kids. How lucky is that?

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Photo done, back to the slides….

 

 

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Story and Connection – A Letter to Hannah Gadsby

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 11.39.55 AMDear Hannah Gadsby,

I am writing this with tears in my eyes, having just watched your Netflix comedy special, Nanette.

I had to watch it twice to appreciate how you wove together – with humor – threads of your coming out story and assault, insights about the cost of turning your story into comedy, analysis of comedy structure v. story structure, your experiences with unsolicited advice givers and anti-depressives, and, even, info from your undergrad degree in Art History. You brought these storylines together for maximum impact, making a indelible case for embracing multiple perspectives.

It is so much more than a comedy special, which seems to be stirring up a bit of controversy. Did you see where Judy Berman in the New York Times wrote, “The controversy surrounds the nature of Nanette, which is packaged as comedy but evolves into a searing critique of that medium when, midway through her set, Gadsby announces that she’s quitting stand-up. A lesbian from conservative Tasmania, she is done mining past trauma for jokes. Instead, Gadsby launches into a shrewd and impassioned dissection of misogyny, homophobia, art history and especially comedy. Is it fair to call this stand-up? Opinions vary.”

Whatever you want to call it, your brilliant performance gathers steam as it goes. I put your closing words above my computer:

“Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure. Laughter is just the honey that sweetens the bitter medicine.

“I don’t want to unite you with laughter or anger. I just needed my story heard, my story felt and understood by individuals with minds of their own. Because like it or not your story is my story and my story is your story. I just don’t have the strength to take care of my story anymore. I don’t want my story defined by anger. All I can ask is just please help me take care of my story.

“Do you know why we have The Sunflowers? It’s not because Vincent Van Gogh suffered. It’s because Vincent Van Gogh had a brother who loved him. Through all the pain, he had a tether, a connection to the world and that is the focus of the story we need.

“Connection.”

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Hannah, I want you to know I will take care of your story. I think that’s my purpose on this earth – to take care of stories. One of my first picture books, published 22 years ago, is about a princeling who finds his own dreams. The most recent is about a little wolf who sings his own song. I agree our diversity is our strength; there is room for all our dreams, all our songs, all our stories. The first thing I will do to take care of your story is to share it with the BATT blogpost readers.

Your very specific, individual story is universal. That’s the way stories work. They connect us to a world where everyone is welcome at the table. Thanks again for your wonderful special.

Yours truly, Laura

Pattern and Story

For many years I have had one foot in the world of picture books and another in the world of textiles.

Question: Is this a textile design or a children’s book illustration?

Answer: This is part of a new line of textiles called Hey Diddle Diddle, designed for In The Beginning Fabrics.

Question: Is this a textile design or a children’s book illustration?

Answer: this is the dedication page from my upcoming picture book Vivid: Poems and Notes about Color (I’ll write more about Vivid next month).

I studied weaving in college at the School for American Craftsmen. I was a pretty bad craftsperson – my selvages were always crooked.  I wanted to tell stories with my fabric, but the emphasis was more on technique.

Magpie by Yuri Vasnetsov

I also took a drawing class where the teacher dinged me for excessive pattern and flatness in my work. He asked if I really needed to draw every leaf on every tree. Yes, I did.

I felt like a misfit in all arenas. But luckily I had one class where the teacher told me to consider the things that made me different as strengths and not weaknesses. I was ready to hear that advice, and he helped me find my own direction. 

Since then my patterns have been full of stories and my stories have been full of pattern.

I like to play with the balance between the decorative and narrative, and to search for new directions.

Here is a piece that I made in 2016. Question: How was it made?

Answer: The black was stenciled onto 4 pieces of paper. The colors were painted on. The papers were rotated and stitched together.

Recently I designed some cotton scarves for my webshop Julie Paprika: Menagerie, Be Mine and Yum. The original drawings were ink on paper, painted at full size. I rotated the paper while painting.

Question: Can you tell which side is up? Can you make up stories for them?

In addition to balancing pattern and story, I try to balance having a creative life and making a living. Julie Paprika is my attempt to do both things. It would be peachy if you visited the shop.
Thank you.

P.S. I am currently selling a Zero Tolerance poster at Julie Paprika.
Question: Why is our government treating immigrants with such cruelty?
Answer: There is no good answer.
A small action: Buy this poster and 1oo% of the proceeds will go to United We Dream. Click here. Thank you.

A Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin

On June 13, I attended an event in Portland honoring Ursula K. Le Guin. The tribute was organized by the Le Guin family and hosted by Literary Arts. Speakers included writers and artists whom Ursula had worked with, as well as others she had influenced, inspired, and befriended. The spoken tributes alternated with photos and video selections from “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin”, a feature documentary film by Arwen Curry.

My feelings about Ursula have always been held close in my heart and not something I often talk about. But there, in that auditorium, I felt I was one of many whose hearts Ursula had touched. It was bittersweet, remembering her and missing her.

The event was filmed and is available to watch on the Literary Arts website.

Ursula K. Le Guin was a master of the art of words, but she also was a brilliant  thinker and an outspoken advocate for artists, free speech, and humanity. My admiration for her has only deepened as I have continued to read her writings in the months since her death. I have almost finished her Conversations On Writing with David Naimon, which I recommend if you want to hear more of her thoughts about her craft. It nicely captures Ursula’s relaxed style of speaking and her humor.

I am also about a quarter of the way through Lavinia, in which Ursula gives eloquent voice to a female character from Vergil’s Aeneid.

‘I know who I was, I can tell you who I may have been, but I am now, only in this line of words I write…”

I look forward to reading more of Ursula’s works that I have not yet read, and then maybe I will re-read some of my old favorites of hers that I read years ago. It is a good way to continue to pay tribute to her, and to keep hearing her voice and learning from her.