Saturday, July 26, 2008


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
- 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


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


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


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.