Sunday, December 21, 2008

SHREDDED POTATO JOY TO THE WORLD

A recipe for holiday bliss starts with a 10 pound bag of potatoes and ends up in my stomach! Here's to eight nights of fattening fun!

video

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

GHOSTS OF BOOK-TOONS PAST!

It's been a pretty busy time watching the world nose-dive into a recession-jobless-Ponzi schemed-freefall. So - back by popular demand (my wife) here are my past 2 Holiday book-toons as the perfect anti-"we're all doomed" anitdote!

Enjoy!
video video

Thursday, November 20, 2008

DADNAPPED Trailer



I just found out that DADNAPPED - the Disney Channel movie that I wrote is going to air sometime in December. It stars Emily Osment (from Hanna Montana) and David Henrie (Wizards of Waverly Place). There are lots of other Disney Channel comedy stars in it too so I think kids who love watching the D. channel are going to have fun with it.

As anybody who has ever written for TV/films knows - what you hand in as a "script" and what you see as a "movie" can sometimes be kind of like opening a box of Fruit Loops and pouring out a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. To be honest - I have no idea what the finished movie looks like, only that I had lots of fun writing it and will be surprised to see how it all turned out.

Either way - I'm "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" - so am not worried at all!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

THURBER HOUSE WANTS YOU!

Okay WRITERS - this is it. The 2009 Thurber House Children's Author in Residence is now accepting YOUR applications!

Why would you want to apply? Well, unless you don't need 4 weeks of uninterrupted writing time, your own apartment in the historic home of one of America's funniest Writer/Cartoonists, and the opportunity of a lifetime - let me try and help with some possible reasons...

See that house? That's where James Thurber lived - the house he immortalized in his hysterical book "My Life And Hard Times". That attic (where the bed "fell on father") will be your apartment home for 4 AMAZING WEEKS of creative YOU time - where, without distractions (other than possible ghost sightings) you will write and edit and dream of fabulous new ideas yet to come.

Your attic apartment - cozy and clean - will welcome you as you set up a writing space that makes you feel like it's all about YOU (which for 4 weeks - it is!). Note: desk provided - computer and toys are all mine!

But take it from me - the Residency is way more than just your personal Writing Time....


You get to work with the creative geniuses at the Thurber Writing Camp - being inspired by their enthusiasm as you get to brainstorm with the best!


You'll be able to attend the delicious and casual Thurber House Literary Picnics held on the lovely lawn of YOUR house!


Meatloaf. Yes, I had the best meatloaf while in Columbus. And I attended the Jazz and Ribs Festival too - another fine culinary indulgence (that I over-did!). So if you aren't a vegetarian - this is obviously the Residency for you. (If you are a vegetarian there are ample options for your dining pleasure as well: my fave was the North Star Cafe - I loved their Buddha Bowl!)


The House is YOUR house...especially in the dark of night when you get to wander the rooms and breathe in the Thurber-air that inspired me on a daily (and nightly) basis. Remember - you are LIVING in THURBER'S HOUSE!...The reminders are everywhere!


Banjos. No - the Thurber Residency does not come with a banjo. But if you want to drive to Chillicothe you can hang around Bob's Banjo Barn, where on Saturdays they have a little bluegrass jam in the back room. (confession: I can play 1 song on a banjo - and though this little 5-string made even my one lame diddy sound great - I didn't buy it!)

Another really good reason to apply is that apart from the ALONE time you carve for yourself - you will be surrounded by the nicest most supportive people. The staff of the Thurber House - from the Directors to the Volunteers will make you smile daily...and sometimes provide you with clean sheets!

There are few experiences I can really point to as "game changers" in my life. (Yes - switching schools in 4th grade where from Day One I was called "Plumpso" still sticks in my mind.) But my 4 weeks this past summer as the Children's Author in Residence was and always will be a moment in time that gave me so much more than I could possibly give back in return.

Apart from being given the time to finish my new best friend .....



I feel I have made some other friends for life - and discovered parts of me that didn't yet know they existed.

So what are you waiting for? Go APPLY now! Then you too can come face to face with the James Thurber legacy - and join the ranks of those who were given the opportunity of a lifetime!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

DOING NOTHING: THE BEST MEDICINE



I don't know about you but after a grueling day staring at the blinking cursor (you know the one) sometimes I need to let myself off the hook and simply allow my hard-working soul to control-alt-delete the day. Literally - it's a write-off!

It's hard enough to stay focused sometimes - and harder still to allow for those times when a wandering mind is better than the one sitting at my desk. Why is it we need real excuses to be "granted permission" to goof off?

"My kid is sick and needs to get picked up at school?" - Drop everything!
"The mailman's at the door with a package?" - Hit save!
"The View is on?" - Turn computer OFF.

I think it needs to be OKAY for us to let procrastination be part of the process - and if that means giving ourselves the thumbs-up to go for a walk....or a drive...or a walk through the donut aisle...then gosh darnit - it has to be done! And without guilt. Or the backlash from the task-master part of the brain ready to lash out against any "non-typing" activity.

So pick a procrastination card - any card and let yourself go. It's not only healthy - it might give you a great idea....one that hopefully will involve donuts!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I HEAR VOICES


Okay Writers - here's the deal: Yes, we hear voices. But remember - we're not CRAZY. We're "CREATIVE"!

To me "I hear voices" has become the "I see dead people" secret that I carry around to help make sense of my world.

I can handle the voices that just go on and on babbling in character about mundane life stuff or what flavor ice cream they (the character) should eat in the next chapter. This BABBLE-VOICE I can tune out no problemo. It's the OTHER voice that drives me nuts - the one that suddenly just SHOWS UP like a loud unwanted guest who only brings a stale coffee cake.

I acknowledge that all voices help us work on creative problems - our characters want to break through to the other side and communicate something fresh and new, a hopeful insight or astonishing plot-pointed twist!

But I'm not good with spontaneity in any part of my life - and these sudden subconscious arrivals are not always helpful especially when I'm not in the best place to listen: like when I'm slicing veggies with the sharpest knife we own or I'm walking down a flight of stairs carrying a heavy laundry basket on my mission of making the whites whiter. Sure I'm always thankful for the help - but really, why does this voice have to give me a shout out now? Is it so I have something to think about while waiting for the paramedics to arrive because I am now at the bottom of the stairs laying in a pile of dirty socks and underwear?

Don't get me wrong - like you, I make a living hearing voices and I wouldn't have it any other way. (Sometimes the only one I talk to all day is inside my brain!) It's just sometimes I wish I could get a little warning that it's time to listen - maybe a post card with an ETA or a formal invitation with an RSVP might be nice.

But no matter what I wish for - I know the voices are on their own timetable and have their own agendas and sometimes need to shock me so I really pay attention no matter what vein I have just sliced while trying to dice carrots.

I guess it's a small price to pay for good ideas and forward movement in the work I love so much.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

WAITING....



(CLICK on the cartoon to see it BIGGER!)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

THE END IS THE BEGINNING



So I'm home. Back from the month spent in the house filled with memories that I imagined where Thurber's; which became the house filled with memories that are now all mine.


My name is now part of the unfinished wall behind the a/c duct inside the closet in the attic -the wall that all Writers In Residence must sign. (Lucky me - I get to have my name just below Lisa Yee's!)

It was a great month - an inspiring time - and one that I appreciate even more now that I am home and back already into the life that was always here: (school started today - which means I've made my first lunch and driven the dreaded "route" to and from the place my son groans about).

Endings are hard - as writers I think we all take them literally, looking for the perfect escape from a situation that will be full of irony or suspense or possibly full of our own deeply felt new understanding of ourselves.

Rubbish!

My ending at the Thurber House was perfectly Thurber and all I learned about myself is - if you set off the security alarm, the Police will come! And they will not believe that you are a "writer in residence" and insist you let them in and show them that you really do have a set of keys that open the doors. Then they will leave and not let you take their picture.

But they came - and that was cool because what if the alarm had gone off because I was in trouble...or the ghost was in trouble...or because they wanted to read one of the great American humorists all alone in the quiet of the parlor?

What if?

Back to work. Back to life. Home again, home again....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

THURBER HOUSE: MILO SAYS GOODBYE


I came to the Thurber House (with clay MILO in tow) to work on his book and spent the month revising, editing, writing a few new awesome chapters and drawing over 40 cartoons to accompany the text of MILO. I feel great and now only worry how to hold on to this feeling and keep it with me as my "real life" embraces me with open arms (and bills to pay) back in Montreal!

The month flew by. And now as I pack the car that only a minute ago (it seems) arrived in front of 77 Jefferson Ave in Columbus, Ohio - it's time for MILO and me to say goodbye to the fantastic people who made my stay in the Thurber House cozy, care-free and so very productive.


Susanne Jaffe - Executive Director of Thurber House (and MILO)
You opened the door for me to have the creative adventure of a lifetime - and gave great restaurant suggestions too.


Pat Shannon - Director of Children's Programs (and MILO)
Thank you for that phone call last March when you said "YES". You made it so easy to be here. Thanks also for the clean sheets - and for reminding me to actually use them.


Meg (and MILO)
I always knew when you were in one of my camp workshops when the laughs came from the counselor side of the room. Thank you for reading (and liking!) the "work-in-progress" and for that iced espresso that was perfect.


Anne (and MILO).
I know the Ghost Story books you lent me would've been amazing -and I promise to find them again and read them once I get the courage. Oh, and the Literary picnics were a blast - thanks for saving me a real chair!


(CWIR = Childrens Writer in residence)


Anna (and MILO).
Thank you for the smile every time I entered the door - and for that wild lunch when you, Anne and I watched the cicada emerge from it's shell.


And last but not least....


Crazy Banana (and MILO)
Thank you for not terrorizing me at night when I was all alone in the big scary house. Stay cool!

I will miss you all (well, not you, Banana) and want you to know you have each added to this incredible experience that I'll always have with me.

Alan and MILO!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

THANK YOU, MR. THURBER

Check out my Thanks to James Thurber at the THURBER HOUSE BLOG - guest-written by yours truly.

And if you're curious - the Columbus Dispatch did a story about my stay here.

More great stuff about my month here at the house to come...as soon as I welcome my family, who arrive tonight! Yay!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

THUBER HOUSE: COVER TO COVER VISIT


While in Columbus doing my Thurber House residency I was invited to do a book signing at the wonderful COVER TO COVER children's book store on N. High St. The store is run by Sally Oddi, and she and I had been corresponding ever since Pond Scum came out and she wrote a review of the book - so it was especially sweet to be able to finally make the personal contact!



The attendance was petite but ENTHUSIASTIC and there was planety of participation and laughter as I shared some of my new book, MILO with them! Bonus of the event was meeting face to face with Mary Lee from A Year Of Reading (in salmon shirt on right) - sadly, co-blogger Franki was out of town at a conference.

Then came the fun ritual of adding my name to their "Author Wall" - which you can see displayed behind everyone (above).



I felt honored to become part of the woodwork of Cover To Cover! And here is the message I left!


Thanks to everyone at COVER TO COVER for making my visit so much fun!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

THURBER HOUSE: MILO CARTOON

I don't have time for a FULL post - so thought I'd share a cartoon I just did in James Thurber's attic - and the passage that goes with it from my current project, MILO.


I am not one of those “honor roll” kids, whose hand is always in the air and knows the answers without even hearing the full question. Those kids kill me because they like the sound of their own voices so much they raise their hands just to sneeze. I bet if they counted how many words they say everyday it would be in the millions because they never shut up!

(from MILO - being completed at the Thurber House Summer 2008)

Friday, August 01, 2008

THURBER HOUSE: THE GHOST AND ME

above - a doodle from my sketchbook after a few nights of great sleep here (which had been impossible back home!)

Like any good story, my stay here at the Thurber House has many chapters. Each day delights me with something new that I discover here in Columbus - or an event that I participate with as part of my writer-in-residency.

(2 nights ago I met with the monthly Young Writer's Workshops held here at the house. Above, 3 of the teen writers along with Kelly, the wondrous coordinator of the group, Pat Shannon, and a table full of snacks...mmmm)

So as I said, the surprises go on and on....(more on that later) but now back to the GHOST.

I knew about the Ghost before my arrival. You see, when I was being interviewed for the residency, I asked Pat Shannon, the Children's Director of Thurber House, if my attic apartment had air conditioning (come on - Ohio in the summer gets hot! - and YES, she assured me that I'd be fully ensconced in a/c!). Then it was her turn for questions, namely "How do you feel about ghosts?"

Of course I'd heard all about the ghost that is supposed to live here. James Thurber himself wrote about the ghost in "My Life and Hard Times" with the hilarious chapter "The Night The Ghost Got In".

("I had just stepped out of the bathtub and was busily rubbing myself with a towel when I heard the steps." from "My Life and Hard Times"....and YES, that's the "TUB")

So immediately I told Pat - that I was excited about meeting the ghost and didn't tell her the part of me that was saying, "But it kind of freaks me out!"

In preparing for my visit I was also told about a ghostly encounter by last year's Children's Author in Residence, Lisa Yee. She and I laughed about it. No big deal.

Still as cool/weird/possibly scary as it sounded - I was slightly unnerved at being all alone in a big house with a spirit who had no name. I'm bad enough at parties with people I don't know - I wasn't sure I could handle being in a house with a ghost who was a stranger to me.

So when I had what I am describing as my "ghost encounter" I had to laugh - because obviously, this was a ghost who wanted me here. Who wanted me to know he/she/it was not there to "haunt" me. This ghost wanted me to laugh - and to know that a sense of humor was the aura that surrounded it!

How do I know this?

Once I arrived here two weeks ago - I set up my stuff to make me feel at home - including the GHOSTBUSTER kit my son and wife made me for my birthday this year - as preparation for coming to the Thurber House.

The kit includes:
1) a home-made Electro-Magnetic "YES/NO" ghost detection device
2) a "spy-kit" motion detector
3) one xtremely strong flashlight
4) a large photo of the Thurber house, where the two attic windows (where I live here) open to reveal a picture of me and a POP-OUT picture of the "ghost"

Now you need to know that the little attic "windows" that open up - have to be pried open with fingers to see what's behind them, much like an advent calendar.

So imagine my surprise when on Morning 3 of my stay - I discovered one window was wide open ....and which window was it?

YES! The GHOST window had somehow popped open and the ghost that my son had made to spring out was STICKING OUT OF THE PICTURE! First reaction? I'm packing up and moving into a hotel!....But then it hit me: the ghost was welcoming me to the house. The ghost was telling me he/she/it was funny. The ghost liked the present my family made. (Now if only the ghost would make me breakfast - I'd be pretty darn happy!)

So thank you Ghost for letting me know you're hip to my style. If you want to have drinks - I'm an iced coffee kind of guy!

editors note: while writing this I ran down to the car to get something and when I came back up - one of the doors to my apartment - one that I have NEVER closed in two weeks - was closed!

Hmmmm....

Saturday, July 26, 2008

THURBER HOUSE: WEEK ONE

Mr. Thwaits, the gym teacher who stopped exercising 20 years ago...
(from MILO -drawn at the Thurber House July 22nd, 2008)

Arrived last Saturday and by Sunday Morning I was writing and drawing cartoons for MILO sitting at my desk inside James Thurber's house! Let me say that again: I was writing and drawing cartoons inside James Thurber's house. I can't describe the giddy feeling I get each time I do this (and I've been doing it every day since I've been here).

Of course before I did any of that - I got my month-long "office" in shape. The Thurber House apartment has a neat 2nd bedroom that is the "office" with a great long desk, which I quickly made my own with items from home....

(clay MILO my son made me, Japanese water easel, EYE-VY plant
also made by my son for my 1st second book WHIRLED...)

(...and here are the characters from my 2nd second book
SQUIB PIXLEY
- yes, made by my son - and wife!)
(..and who could travel without 3-D images of your family to keep you company!)

Let me share what I know - 77 Jefferson Ave (where I now sit in the attic) is just one of Thurber's Columbus homes. Apparently the Thurbers moves around a lot. But this is the home where he lived while attending Ohio State University and it is the house referred to in most of the stories collected in My Life And Hard Times.

The week marched quickly and in between my own writing, a few bike rides and some needed iced coffee runs - I taught two library workshops and two Thurber Writing Camp workshops. I love the energy of brainstorming and creating with kids - and from my POV anyway, we all had a blast!

One of many high-points of the week though was a total surprise event! I read a comment on my first Thurber Blog post - from a librarian here in the Columbus area who just happened to be doing a Pond Scum book discussion for kids and parents. "Could you maybe drop by?" she asked.
(There we are after an hour of fun discussion and many grossed-out Pond Scummy munchies! On the LEFT is amazing Upper Arlington librarian, Kate Hastings, who also writes a wonderful book discussion blog Talkin' Bout Books! Thanks again and it was great meeting everyone!)

There was plenty of time for some exploring which included - The Jazz and Rib Festival (note: when full from taste-testing many different ribs listen to STOMACH! Do not eat more ribs even though the smells of 50 different rib joints from around the country will tell you otherwise!
I also went to one of the last films in the OHIO Theater Summer film series. "The Third Man" is a film noir classic and to see it in the 1920's era restored theater complete with an organist who plays before the show (and rises up on the white organ from the orchestra pit like some sort of musical god!) It was a real treat. Check out the OHIO THEATER here!

I know I hinted about the Thurber Ghost....but that will have to wait until next time when I tell you about hunting for a banjo.... at Bob's Banjo Barn!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

ARRIVING AT THURBER HOUSE


We made it! From Montreal - by way of Ann Arbor, Michigan (great to see my old friends and their wonderful kids!) - then 3 hours drive south and I arrived right here at the Thurber House, smack dab in the middle of Columbus.

I have to admit - crossing into Ohio I got all goosey in my gut - most likely from the anticipation that in 2 short hours I'd be arriving at the Thurber House (and not because my friends and I barbecued tons of ribs and chicken the night before!)
You have to know - I lived in Columbus many years ago (I do mean "many" - trust me - a lot of you weren't born yet)! So as I drove closer the memories of being at my first job and making my first out of college friends and the whole experience of being free and employed in a career you know you're just beginning - all that just bombarded me (and still does each time I see something that springs a memory on me like a mousetrap!).

But my memories of Columbus are for later - THIS post is for saying what a wonderful feeling it was to drive off the highway and onto Jefferson Avenue - the quiet "U" shaped street lined with leafy trees and old Victorian houses with the white gazebo in the middle. And then I pulled up to #77 - the house I've been staring at on the postcard by my desk all year. The photo above is my grin at arriving - and Milo's glee at finally getting out of the car where I chose all the music.

Pat Shannon, Director of the Thurber House, met me and gave me the tour, room by room - my mouth was still grinning like a madman - so in awe was I to be staring at Thurber's artwork, old photos, his bedroom, in fact all the rooms described in "My Life And Hard Times" and so much more!

After dragging my stuff up to the attic apartment and getting my own set of keys - I was left alone in the house at 77 Jefferson Ave. James Thurber's House. It's almost a guilty little feeling inside me that shouts and squeals that "I am so lucky to have this honor and opportunity!"

I quickly set up my workspace and my photos of home and some toys and gadgets which helped me settle into the idea that I am here and ready to write, draw and teach....oh, and explore Columbus too!

And then there's my first encounter with the famous Thurber House GHOST....but more about that next time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

AND AWAY WE GO!


Bon Voyage! Well, I'm officially off on my Thurber House adventure. This is me (and me) standing by the packed car just before driving off from Montreal towards Columbus. I'm writing this from my clean Travelodge hotel room in a little Ontario town called Chatham, which is about 2 hours west of Toronto.

It's all so exciting - which is what I kept telling myself as I listened to music and drove 8 hours away from the comfort of home and into the absolute unknown of what will be my next 4 weeks!

Tomorrow I cross the US border and visit one of my oldest friends outside of Ann Arbor, MI - then Saturday - it's down to Ohio and I move into the Thurber House! Wow. It's finally really happening!

To be continued.....

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

WITH APOLOGIES TO MR. THURBER...


In one week I start my drive from Montreal to Columbus, Ohio to begin my month long residency at the Thurber House.

Above is one of Thurber's classic New Yorker cartoons, slightly altered to include yours truly inside his world. (I included this in my application for the residency thinking they'd either have my drawing pens confiscated - or laugh... lucky for me I still have my pens!)

While my intent is to spend my month reworking/editing my new book, MILO - I also hope to immerse myself as much as I can inside the world of James Thurber. Of course, living inside the attic he wrote about so often in "My Life and Hard Times" is a pretty great immersing!

By the way - I read a few chapters of My Life and Hard Times aloud last night at bedtime - and wife and I laughed so much. He describes his Columbus life with such a dry sense of humor - and his cartoons just add so much to the fun of each chapter.

And for those who may not know his work - here is the Thurber cartoon that I "adjusted" above:
Ah, Thurber. An ironic genius with sparse lines and no shortage of perfect words.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

COUNTDOWN TO THURBER HOUSE


(I've had requests to re-post my POND SCUM book trailer so -
CLICK the PIC to see it!)

My son leaves for camp in 2 days - which on my summer calendar is the first of two big "X" marks. The second "X" of course is my departure date to drive to Columbus, Ohio for my whole month of writing, cartooning and teaching as the James Thurber House Children's Author is Residence.

If all my Google-maps go as planned - I'll be arriving Saturday the 19th of July, which is highlighted brightly on my calendar like the Grand Marshall of my Summer parade!

Of course things still need to get done. My plate of other work needs to get cleared. The lawn needs to be mowed. And there are many movies to be seen before now and then.

But mid-July is looming and I can't wait to start this exciting trip and have a whole month of writing time while living at the Thurber House!

I've already thanked Lisa Yee for her lovely welcome letter. But a second shout-out of gratitude goes to local teacher/bloggers Mary Lee and Franki at the YEAR OF READING blog, who have also extended tour-guide invitations that include ice cream.

It's going to be a fantastic month! (and I say a yummy "Yes!" to ice cream!)

Monday, June 16, 2008

DAD'S DAY IN MAINE



Fathers Day happened again and once again it happened to me and it happened at the most beautiful spot in the universe - the place we go to in Maine (this same week every year).

My amazing wife and son always do something wonderful for me on the Sunday that is the first full day we awaken to the sounds of the gulls and sea. The past few years my son has taken it upon himself to honor the "day" by creating something for me that has to do with whatever book project I am currently working on.

Above is his wonderful clay tribute to my current book, MILO. (below you can see the cartoon it is based on). You should've seen my grin as he presented this to me - and in fact it's still plastered on my face.
Unrelated to Fathers day and Maine - I wanted to thank the always funny and extremely gracious LISA YEE for her blog post "welcome" re. my upcoming Writer In Residency at the Thurber House.

That's it for now - time to drive back to the cabin where the internet doesn't exist - just the ocean, sea gulls and our dog who has probably eaten the couch by now.