Sun in wintertime, We will do just fine, Where the skies are blue, This is what we’re gonna do!
Put your hand in my hand, and together, we’ll make our plan. (Together!)
To celebrate the occasion of our move, I made my very first gif! Marmion finds the Malibu sun to be a little toasty.
So the big news is: I now live and work in California. I’m still writing, a little less than before, and still drawing, a little less than before. A lot of personal reflection went into my decision to move and accept a job. There were many reasons for the move, but a substantial reason was the desire to find more balance in my life. Balance in all its forms. The move has felt like such a change. I often feel overwhelmed trying to process it all (hence the reason for the long web silence). But I feel like I’m on the path to finding that balance. And I think a little bit of balance will help me see a clearer way forward. I haven’t given up on or let go of Marmion, but there may be longer periods of time between Marmion updates. Instead, I plan to start writing more posts on my personal page. Hope to see you there. 🙂
I recently took a trip to California to visit family and spend some time alone. My accommodations had no cable or internet, so I intended to use the situation to my advantage and work on my writing. It was more difficult than I anticipated. I hope I will finish a couple of pieces enough to satisfaction. Maybe I will get to share one or two of the things I worked on with the larger world some day. One thing I’ll share right now is that standard author blog post fare: my vacation reading list. The first two of these books were started before my trip, the rest were bought/brought specifically for the trip.
1. Shine, Shine, Shine, by Lydia Netzer. She lives in Norfolk and I bought her debut novel after attending her panel at a local writer’s conference. I hadn’t gotten around to starting it until a month ago, but I’m glad I finally did.
2. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Josh Foer. Because I am getting old and forgetful.
3. Cheetah Can’t Lose, by Bob Shea. My sister and brother-in-law bought me his book, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, and it is pretty great. I couldn’t help buying this one too! Love his illustrations and love his humor.
4. Howl’s Moving Castle, by Dianne Wynn Jones. Saw the movie first, of course, because I am a HUGE Miyazaki fan (TOTORO!!). The novel is similar, the story goes a little differently. Loved it.
5. Divergent, by Veronica Roth. Before the movie arrives! It felt like a mashup of Twilight and the Hunger Games, but not nearly as fun to read as those. Now I’m feeling meh about picking up the second one or even about seeing the movie.
6. Steal like an Artist, by Austin Kleon. Something I could pick up and read a little bit at a time to keep me motivated.
7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. My Gaiman fandom started with Sandman (best.comic.ever.). I’ve really enjoyed his stories for younger audiences, Coraline, Wolves in the Walls, but previously struggled to get into his novels. Because it’s not very long, and told from the point of view of a child, it would be easy to think of this book as another one of his scary tales for kids, like Coraline. When I got to the end, that was my first impression. But scenes from the book have haunted me every day since I finished reading it. The more it lingers, the more I realize how grown-up the tale actually is.
8. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger. It feels uncomfortable to share this because this book is so personal to me. And I feel even more vulnerable revealing this is the 5th time I’ve read the book! (I am still that teenage girl.)
9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Yes, I was supposed to read this in high school, but never actually did, and have been trying to make up for it for 20 years now (along with a few other books I skated through). All it took was three days of no TV or wifi to finish it! Finally! And it warn’t bad t’all.
It was such a luxury to read so much in such a short time! Back to reality now.
People have asked me how the Arts Festival experience went, and I would say, it was ok. I didn’t sell as much as I wanted, 7 books and 2 t-shirts, about half the amount I was hoping for. But I didn’t see it as bad experience at all, just disappointing. It was hard seeing the faces people made as they walked by. The cringing like they were embarrassed for me faces. Or the slightly confused gradually replaced with “good luck with that, sucker” faces. Faces that I’ve made before! So, I don’t blame anyone. And I’ve worked in retail, so I know how it can be. All of which made it easier for me to brush it off, because how did I really know what they were thinking? Or I thought it was easy for me to brush off. Until I was completely exhausted by the anxiety of the whole experience right after. And until I noticed how small and embarrassed I constantly felt later in the week.
I was teaching yoga and noticed how quiet my voice had gotten. And it kept getting quieter the longer I talked. In my head I was telling myself, speak louder, project from the belly and diaphragm. But my belly was a quaking nervous wreck. So I turned down the music and kept going as best I could. The next morning in my next class, it happened again. I was staring at myself in the mirror, demonstrating a pose, watching that quiet voice leave my mouth, and finding it physically impossible to speak louder.
Here I was, timid again. I remember one time when I heard that word used to describe me, from a friend a few years ago. She had introduced me to a group of her friends, and she told me later, one (or some) of them had found me “timid.” I was furious and shocked. Sure, I’m shy, quiet, reserved. All those words seem acceptable for an introvert like me, but timid? After a few weeks of self-righteous anger, I realized I was timid. Because I remembered why I was timid. I was a pretty unpopular kid growing up. By my sophomore/junior year of high school, I had managed to gain a few friends who knew me well, but I was also well into my coping strategy of pretending to be invisible. Of shrinking to make myself small and unnoticeable. To be as unremarkable as possible. Better to attract no attention, than the negative kind I was used to. When I’m feeling insecure in my life, personally and professionally, I revert to this small, scared self.
But this time I wasn’t just insecure about myself and how people were perceiving me, I was embarrassed and insecure about Marmion. I thought about trying again to brush it off (yes, I hear Jay-Z every time I use this phrase), and stop being so insecure (which is so easy let me tell you), and then I remembered why I wrote Marmion. Because I was tired of letting fear turn me into someone else. Marmion is scared and he keeps trying to become something he’s not, putting on all these protective masks. And I was doing it again, by trying to force myself into the happy, bubbly, funny, and tough-as-nails children’s book author I thought I was supposed to be.
Two quotes happened to pop up on my Tumblr dashboard in the last month that perfectly capture the reason I wrote Marmion, and the motivation for writing it. (And we all love quotes nowadays, right? I apologize for not giving these a cool font and photoshopping them onto some gauzily filtered landscape.)
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” — L.R. Knost, author of children’s and parenting books
“The best way to complain is to make things.” — James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem
So I let myself feel soft and sensitive and bruised. I let myself feel a little scared, but I had to choose not to be embarrassed about Marmion. By the weekend, I was still feeling too timid to wear my Marmion shirt. The shirt would identify me as the girl with the embarrassing booth at the Arts Festival! But then I knew, the shirt would identify me as the girl who loved writing a book about a marshmallow. So though I was still scared, I made the choice to wear the shirt all day. Did I feel self-conscious sometimes? Yes. Did I sometimes think people were looking at me funny? Yes, sometimes. But I love my book. And I love Marmion, which is what the t-shirt literally says, so what was I hiding, or really, what version of me was I hiding?
And I got my teacher voice back. For now. Not just because I wore the shirt, but because I softened into the idea that I was scared, that I had reverted into feeling timid again. I remembered why it was so easy for me to feel that way, and also remembered that I’m not there anymore. I’m still me, but I’m a little older (wiser?), and I don’t spend most of my waking hours in an environment that resembles high school anymore.
In my next yoga class, I projected my voice, was able to speak with authority, and I even went bold and did a crazy variation of goddess pose, inspired by a girl in my kids yoga workshop. And I made everyone sit in goddess while I told the story of how I was inspired to create this crazy arm flow for the pose (their quads are thanking me now). I stuttered, I mumbled an aside of how “you all might hate this next pose..,” but I still did it. Hopefully, I will do it another time without all the verbal crutches and “sorry, sorry, sorries.” I’m still trying to learn Marmion’s lesson about fear. Thanks for your patience while I get there.
Look what my mom and I made yesterday! I want to eat him up!
We struggled some with the construction which is why it looks like he has a buzz hair cut. But considering my mom and I have no experience making stuffed animals (though my mom is very good with sewing clothes), this prototype didn’t turn out as badly as I thought it would. He’s pretty cute! I have no sewing experience, so I ended up making a bad choice with the white fabric (upon further research I think fleece would’ve been a better and sturdier choice). We will try again with some major changes. I’m thinking no arms and legs next time, just a marshmallow with eyes? As you can see, we didn’t attempt the hands and feet because of how difficult that white fabric was to work with.
I wanted to make a Marmion doll because many children’s authors advise having a prop for school readings. For many reasons I won’t get into, we weren’t able to make one in time for my readings at AUCP and James River Elementary. Judging from the comments and questions I got from the first graders at James River, I think a Marmion doll would be a big hit! (They also asked if there’s a Marmion video game… any freelance app developers interested in contacting me about that??)