Monday, September 29, 2008

Writing Monday: The Writer's New Article

The Writer has an article published in the Fall 2008 issue of Creative Home magazine. The article is called "Thoreau's Bathroom" and is about her exploits redecorating the powder room in her house earlier this spring. The Writer has never picked up a paintbrush before, but she vowed she would do all the work herself with no help from The Husband.
It was quite an escapade. Let's just say cats were involved.

The Winter 2008 issue of Creative Home is just appearing on the newsstands now, but you can still find the Fall issue. Creative Home added an online feature link to The Writer's article. Here is one of the photographs (clearly taken by The Writer, who had no idea her crummy little photos would be splashed all over the Net--goodbye, chance to be a designer on HGTV.

This picture of Winchester shows the bathroom before--one of his finer moments. Tee-hee!

I'll get you for this, Ellsworth. I'll find a picture of you in some humiliating pose and post it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Poetry Friday - Original

Today The Writer wants to submit an original poem. She rarely writes poetry, but she used to write quite a bit of it when she was a teenager.

It was all the angst-filled stuff, wasn't it?

Yes, she wrote a lot of melancholy poetry about the world coming to an end and so forth. In fact, her earliest published work was poetry. She had a poem published in an anthology at the age of 16. And another poem published in another anthology when she was 18. She was very proud, even though she had to pay for the books, which turned out to be poorly-bound and brimming with the worst poetry imaginable. It was a hard lesson to learn, that a "publisher" will accept any dreck and take people's money.

In one of the anthologies, The Writer discovered a distant cousin. The cousin was elderly and her poem, like so many (including The Writer's) was terrible, but The Writer connected with her and they corresponded for a while. The Writer realized that all those poets had earnest dreams like hers.

This is The Writer's poem for today's Poetry Friday. It may still not be very good, but it is earnest and heartfelt.

"September 2008"

You want to marry a man who grows sunflowers,
who believes the Constitution
constitutes beach reading
and there is life
on other stars.

He should have long-fingered hands
that reach C to C
plus two black keys,
that fix cars and gentle wary cats.

Look for a man who carries a flashlight--
he will never leave you
in the dark.

Find one who works hard
math problems for fun
and skims Radio-Electric Transmission Fundamentals
because it's "good."

Hang on to a man
who holds you tight
through sickness so ugly you can't bear
to stay in this world,
who helps with the dishes,
who always
puts you first.

If you marry a man who grows sunflowers
you can't go wrong.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ellsworth and Winchester Dine Out

Is this the restaurant? The Swampwater Grill? Doesn't sound very swanky to me.

All the chi-chi places have awful names. Makes them even more chi-chi. The understated decor fools you, too. I'm starved!

You're always starved. Is this little blackboard thing the menu?

I'll start with smoked Isle of Skye wood pigeon with quail eggs. Next I'll have pheasant under glass with hothouse white asparagus. For my second course, I believe I'll have medallions of rabbit wrapped in prosciutto. And for dessert, checkerboard terrine of pistaschio and white chocolate ice cream with raspberry sauce.

Winchester, none of those things are even on the menu.

Darn. I had my mouth all set for pheasant, too.

Oh, hello, wait-person. I'll have macaroni and cheese.

Macaroni and cheese! We could have had that at home. Oh, well, I guess I'll have a Caesar salad with extra anchovies. And be quick about it!

Wow! That was fast. How is your salad?

The lettuce is black! Looks like they got it out of the dumpster. And I couldn't crack these croutons with a jackhammer.

My macaroni and cheese doesn't have much cheese, either.

My oyster fork is dirty! Garcon! Where is that guy? They bring the food and you never see them again until check time. Well, I'll just pay and we can go. Forty dollars! Are they kidding me?

Food is so expensive these days. It wouldn't be so bad if you got good food.

I know where we can go. They always have good food and it's affordable.

The Golden Arches!
This post is dedicated to Frank, who'd like a decent meal out sometime

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vintage Wednesday

Wednesday again and that means a fresh old book. I found this on the bottom shelf of one of The Writer's bookcases. Since it's still September and going back to school is a fairly new experience, I want to share The Magic Bus. It's a Wonder Book "With Washable Covers"--an antiseptic answer to Golden Books. The Writer had a lot of inexpensive books when she was a kid: Golden Books, Wonder Books, Elf Books, Tell-a-Tale Books, usually begged for--and purchased at--People's Drug Store or Grand Union grocery store.

The Magic Bus has a bright blue green cover with a rubbery-looking bus sailing above the clouds. Its passengers look excited and who wouldn't be? The story was written by Maurice Dolbier and published in 1948. The delightful illustrations were rendered by Tibor Gergely. Jenny, the old-fashioned bus, happily drives passengers from Boston to New York. Then bigger and faster buses put Jenny out to pasture. One day all the big fast buses are filled and Jenny is called into service. A curious boy pushes a gold button on the dashboard that Jenny's driver had never seen before. And the bus is off on a magical adventure!

There is nothing old-fashioned about The Magic Bus. Any child of today would enjoy the story and Gergely's illustrations. Too bad little books like these aren't being published any more.

Look at you, using words like "antiseptic" and "rendered." Aren't we Miss Smarty Pants?

Anyone can read the dictionary.

Can I pick out the Wednesday book sometimes?

Maybe. If you're good.

So much for that idea.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ellsworth Missed Her Blogaversary

Oh, no!

Wha--? You woke me up from a good dream. I was just about to catch this mouse--

Look at the calendar. It's September 23!

So? It's the day after the first day of fall. Did we miss a leaf dropping or something?

Yes! We missed my blogaversary! On August 12, 2007, I created this blog and wrote my first post. Since then I've written over 200 posts. And we didn't celebrate!

We still can.


Let's go out to dinner. I know just the place. Very swanky.

How are we going to get there? Take a taxi?

I can spring for a fancy dinner but not a taxi, too. I know! We'll ride the school bus. It stops right in front of this restaurant. With all those kids, who'll notice a stuffed elephant and a cat?

But the school bus runs at 3:30 in the afternoon. Who eats dinner at that hour?

I know, it's tres declasse, but what can you do? We'll go Thursday. It's a date!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Writing Monday: Cybils 2008!

Guess what? The Writer is a judge in this year's Cybils Awards! She's one of the judges for her favorite genre--nonfiction picture books. She's very excited.

What does the winner get? A bag of kibble? Is it too late for me to write a nonfiction picture book?

You could write twenty nonfiction picture books. They have to be published this year to qualify.

Where's that old printing press? I saw it just the other day . . .

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Award Time!

We've won an award! Becky of Becky's Book Reviews has nominated our blog for an award!

At last I'm on the red carpet where I rightfully belong. "Over here, Mr. Winchester!" "Winchester, look this way!" So many photographers . . . I hardly know where to look.

There's only one photographer and she's not very good. Let's tell people about the "I *Heart* Your Blog" award and make our own nominations.

Four score and seven years ago--

You're not supposed to make a speech!

Why not? Every one does when they win something. Friends, Romans, and countrymen--

Here are rules: 1) Add the logo of the award to your blog, 2) add the link of the person who awarded it to you to your blog, 3) nominate at least 7 other blogs, 4) add links to those blogs to your blog, 5) leave a nice warm message for each of your nominees!

Ladies and jellybeans, I stand here before you to sit behind you to tell you something I know nothing about--

I bet you have a little speech all ready, don't you?

Well . . . you like me! You really like me!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Poetry Friday

The Writer was feeling "September-ish" this morning. The nights are cool and the days are in the mid-70s. Black-eyed Susans flourish along the roadsides. The light is golden because the sun is slanting a different way now. Because everything seems yellow, the Writer planted yellow mums around our mailbox. (I helped.)

She chose a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), a writer who was friends with Emily Dickinson. Jackson is best known for a novel, Ramona, about the plight of the Native Americans. She hoped her book would be as successful as Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Jackson also wrote lovely poetry. Here is one of her best:

by Helen Hunt Jackson

The goldenrod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Winchester Auditions for Chickin' Lickin'

Well, here I am at the ad-person's place. Where's the truckload of crispy crackly chicken? How do I get it?

You have to audition first.

Audition? For what?

The role of the Chickin' Lickin' mascot. Put on this chicken costume.

A cat in a chicken costume? You must be kidding.

You wore a mouse costume once. It's a well-known fact you have no pride when it comes to food.

I feel like an idiot. Look at all these bozos.

You look very . . . chickenish. Don't forget you have to act like a chicken. Cluck. Scratch in the dirt.

Could this be more humiliating? What do I get if I'm picked as mascot?

All the Chickin' Lickin' you can eat. This is where The Writer and Her Husband buy buckets of that crispy crackly chicken you love so much.

Get out of the way, you imposters! Cluck, cluck, cluck! Scritch, scratch, scritch!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vintage Wednesday

It's Wednesday and that means a new book from The Writer's collection of old children's books. Today I chose one of The Writer's absolute favorite books. She checked it out of her little school library so many times, only her name was written on the check-out card. The book is The Burgess Bird Book for Children, by Thornton W. Burgess, a well-known nature writer in the early to mid-20th century. He wrote 150 children's books, all on nature, and 15,000 children's newspaper stories. He and the illustrator he most worked with, Harrison Cady, collaborated for 50 years.

However, The Burgess Bird Book and its companion, The Burgess Animal Book (another book The Writer wore the print off of), were both illustrated by the famous naturalist painter, Louis Agassiz Fuertes. When The Writer was 10, she used to run around saying she was going to be a bird artist like Louis Agassis Fur-teez.

Here is the opening of the Burgess Bird Book:

Lipperty-lipperty-lip scampered Peter Rabbit behind the tumble-down stone wall along one side of theh Old Orchard. It was early in the morning, very early in the morning. In fact, jolly, bright Mr. Sun had hardly begun his daily climb up the blue, blue sky--

Jolly Mr. Sun? Lipperty-lipperty-lip? You're kidding, aren't you?

I knew you'd say that just like I knew you'd butt in my column. Okay, the first part is a little sweet, but remember the book was written in 1919. Children's books were different then. There were a lot of books about fairies because children still believed in fairies.

I'd believe in fairies sooner than Jolly Mr. Sun. No wonder The Writer's name was the only one on the library check-out card.

You have to stick with this book. Very quickly it gets good. Jenny Wren, who has just returned to the Old Orchard from wintering in the south, notices Peter Rabbit (no relation to that other Peter Rabbit) is interested in birds. She starts a sort of school. In each chapter, a different bird is discussed, usually in the same bird family. The bird itself shows up, if it's indigenious to New England. The Writer learned more about birds in this book than in ten bird guides. It's readable and friendly and comforting. She still wants to live in the Old Orchard.

I'm very interested in birds myself. Maybe I'll give The Burgess Bird Book for Children a whirl.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Winchester Falls Out with His Food

Your dinner has been sitting there at least four seconds. How come you haven't scarfed it up?

I don't want it.

What? Am I hearing right? It's Cluck-A-Doodle, your favorite.

Not any more. I want real chicken, like The Writer and Her Husband have. You know, with bones and crispy crackly skin. My food is just goopy.

I know a way you can get that kind of chicken.

Really? How?

I saw an ad in today's newspaper.

An ad? Is somebody giving away a truckload of real chicken?

No. You have to do what the ad person wants for the chicken.

If it gets me real chicken with bones and crispy crackly skin, I'll do anything.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Writing Monday: The Perfect Day

The Writer wrote a novel called Seeing Sky-Blue Pink in which Maddie, the main character, had Perfect Days with her mother. They would go the library and when they crossed the park, Maddie would rub the left hoof of the horse statue for luck. They topped off The Perfect Day with a maple walnut sundae at Rudy's diner.

That's a Perfect Day? Those people didn't aim their sights very high.

In a magazine, The Writer read about a woman who described her perfect day: she would go to Venice, photograph the beautiful furniture in hotel lobbies, and relax with wine, pasta, and cappuccinos. When The Writer read this, she thought about her own Perfect Day.

She would go to Beatrix Potter's home, Hill Top, in the Lake District and would not have a timed entry ticket. She'd sail right in with the whole place to herself and nobody hovering to get her to buy things in the gift shop. Then a freckle-faced little girl in a white pinafore would hand her a picnic basket with tea sandwiches, little iced cakes, and a carafe of Earl Grey tea. In the meadow with only sheep for company, The Writer would take out her Windsor and Newton paint box and journal and would magically be able to capture her day in elegant prose and watercolor sketches.

I hope she's downwind of the sheep.

The point is that creating an imaginary Perfect Day can be a jumping off point to start the Perfect Writing Day. What would your Perfect Day be?

I'd tour the Friskie's Cat Food factory. A man in a white jacket would hand me a golden spoon and let me sample all the different kinds of cat food. To cleanse my palate between tastings, I'd swirl Devonshire cream in a balloon goblet--

I thought so.

What would your Perfect Day be?


Friday, September 12, 2008

Poetry Friday

Hello, Everyone! Welcome to Poetry Friday (both of you)!

Eh-hem. Haven't you seen the "Journal Readers" thingie on our blog? You have exactly one reader.

Well . . . welcome, Heidi! Here is our first offering for Poetry Friday. I plan to select older and forgotten children's poets. The Writer believes Robert Louis Stevenson is the finest poet for children. I like him too and will choose a poem from A Child's Garden of Verses now and then. This is The Writer's very favorite poem--she loves the way the rhythm speeds up, just like a train.

"From a Railway Carriage"

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with a man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scanner is Up!

The Writer has finally set up her brand-new scanner and yesterday she began scanning stuff. Look!

What the heck is that?
It's one of her old book covers she scanned.
There's white space on one side and the light bounces off it.

Okay, she doesn't know how to do it perfectly. Give her time. She'll figure out how to get rid of the weird margin.

Yeah, Rome wasn't built in a day and all that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vintage Wednesday

Hello, everybody (both of you)! Welcome to my new column, Vintage Wednesday. Every Wednesday (well, maybe I'll miss a few--life does get in the way), I'll review a vintage children's book: picture books, storybooks, fiction, nonfiction, and even old books on children's literature.

Today we're going to look at a new series The Writer has recently discovered: Lolly Pop Books.

These books are 3" x 4," a little bigger than the miniature Golden Books (2" x 2") and cute as a speckled pup. They are just the right size for me! They were published by John Martin's House in Kenosha, WI. The Writer has 7 of these little gems and at $10 a pop, she won't be collecting them all. One title has a plain paper spine, but the others have a red paper spine sprinkled with little lollipops.

The stories are charming, with text on the left side and illustrations on the other. No credit to author or illustrator. This is the opening from Some Day:

Some day I'll ride the escalators till the escalators stop.
Some day my sister Jane and I will own a candy store
and when we eat up all our stock, why then we'll make some more.

The Writer wrote to Steve Santi, author of several guides on Golden Books and other popular children's books such as Rand McNally, Whitman, and Treasure books. Steve offered little information about the Lolly Pop books other than they were published from about 1948 to 1950. And there are a lot of them! The Writer will never be able to track down, much less afford, all of the Lolly Pops, but she will acquire as many of these cute little books as she can. Here are some sample titles:

Billy Brownie and Spotty
Blue Bird's Story
Bossy The Calf
Bounce The Puppy
Busy Mrs. Bunny and Her Children
The Children Had a Party
Down Near the Rabbit Hole
Happy Holidays
Mrs. Ducks Family
On the Chug Chug Train
Poor, Poor Puffy
They Came to the Farm
Three Little Kittens
Tick Tock The Little Duck
Bobby Had Three Pennies

What a minute . . . that's a photograph. Hasn't The Writer set up her scanner yet?

No, but she's working on it. Well, she took it out of the box. Anyway, there are no good pictures of these little books on the web. (It should be noted that Winchester was locked in the closet during this photo shoot. He thought he was supposed to be in it--for the food, you know.)

I resemble that remark!

You're not supposed to be in this column anyway! Beat it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Winchester Goes Back to the Vet

Hee-hee! Look at you! It took The Writer and her husband all their might to push you in the carrier.

That's because I'm the strongest cat in the world.

No, it's because you barely fit in the carrier. You wouldn't be in this fix if you'd stopped sneezing like I told you.

How can you stop sneezing? You got a sneeze inside--it has to come out, you dumb sack of stuffing.

You're just grumpy because you have to go to the vet. Your vet is very nice. She knows what's best for you.

Yeah, like that thermometer . . .

The Writer says you have blackheads on your chin!! Just like a teenager. She'll have to get Stridex pads and Clearasil.

Can I help it I have raging hormones? I'm still a teenager.

According to the people/cat age chart you're 44!

You got a pair of wirecutters? I'm out of here!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Writing Monday: Converting Books

Why is the blog up so late? Monday is almost over!

Shhh. The Writer isn't feeling well again. She had a bad weekend.

What is with her? I'm going to trade her in for a new Person. One that's younger and not so puny... and richer so she can buy me all the kibble I want.

Never mind. She told me what she wanted to talk about today--and it is still Monday. She talked to her students this summer about finding the right genre. Sometimes the decision is obvious. You wouldn't want to write about a serial killer for a preschool picture book. Other times the decision isn't so clear-cut.

Years ago The Writer wrote a picture book called "The Walnut Man's Granddaughter." It was a fine story, but seemed to be burdened with too many themes and plotlines. A friend suggested turning it into two picture books. The Writer liked that idea, but when she started to take it apart, the story wouldn't cooperate. She decided to write episodic short stories that would add up to a whole. That flopped too. By working backwards, The Writer wrote a novel called Finding Day's Bottom, which she considers her finest work.

Yeah, it's all downhill now.

Now The Writer is facing a similar problem. Once she wrote what she calls an "edgy" easy reader. It has all the right elements: good length, good sentence structure, humor, engaging characters, fun plot. And yet, and yet, something isn't quite right. The Writer is going to revise the book. But every time she looks at it she sees a perfect easy reader! She thinks, What is wrong with those editors! Can't they see perfection when it's under their nose?

And yet, and yet, something isn't quite right. The Writer realized the format is wrong. It's not an easy reader but a chapter book. It's not that simple to slam an easy reader into a chapter book. So The Writer did what she always does: she went back to basics. She found some chapter books and typed out not one or two chapters, but the entire book! She could read the book, mark it up, make notes. But by typing it out, she spotted things that wouldn't be evident analyzing the story as a reader. She analyzed it as a writer by becoming the writer of that book.

Next time you have to convert a book from one form to another, try "becoming" the writer. You might be able to pinpoint the troublespots.

Zzzzzzz. Wha? Are we done? Finally!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Message in the Mountain

There's a new Time Spies book out! We have totally forgotten to mention that Message in the Mountain, the latest Time Spies book, came out this summer.

I didn't forget. I have to wear tiara in that book. I'm a princess at a tea party.

You wear tiaras all the time. So what? Anyway, this book is a very exciting adventure in which the Chapman kids--and me!--go back in time to 1934. They land on top of Mount Rushmore! It's not finished yet. In fact, there is something very wrong with the sculpture of Thomas Jefferson. The Time Spies kids help solve the problem.

That's their job, to solve the mission.

Yeah, but this time I almost bite the dust! A not-so-nice call boy tries to throw me over the side!

What's a call boy?

The sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, had a team of people working on the monument. The carving was mostly done by dynamiting off sections of the granite. Men swung from harness chairs using jackhammers and other tools. They needed to move to another spot, their drill bits needed to be replaced. They couldn't yell loud enough for the guy in the winch house--the man who controlled the lifting and lowering the harness chairs--to hear them. So boys sat on the edge of the monument or hung over the side in harness chairs and relayed messages. They also delivered sharp drill bits.

I'm still mad that you got to have an exciting adventure and all I get to do is pretend to drink air tea. I think I'll sue The Writer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Vintage Wednesday

Welcome to Vintage Wednesday. The Writer tells me what to write for Writing Monday, but I have my very own column, starting today.

The Writer has a lot of vintage children's books--picture books, story books, readers, and mid-grade novels.

That's an understatement. You can't move in this house for all the books. And The Writer keeps buying more!

She can't help it, it's an obsession--hey, what are you doing here? This is my column. All large, nosy black and white cats are not invited to contribute. Where was I? Oh, yes, the vintage books. The Writer collects books from the 1910s up through the early 1960s. Anything after that she says is too modern. She especially loves books from the 20s and 30s.

Since the books are all over the place, I pick them up and read them. They are really good! So each Wednesday that I'm here, I'll review a different old book. I'll try to include an illustration. The Writer has bought a new scanner, but she's a bit slow learning new things.

A bit? She still doesn't know how to retrieve messages on her cellphone. I'll have to set up that scanner--

Time to go! See you next Wednesday with my pick for Vintage Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to School

Winchester! Hurry up or you'll miss the bus. It's the first day of school! Aren't you excited? We have matching bookbags.

Is that what that thing is around my neck? I thought I turned into a Saint Bernard.
I'm in first grade. You're in catergarten--again.
Can I help it I like the snacks? And we get to take naps.

My lunch is packed and I have all my school supplies. Best of all, I have new school books. Don't school books smell wonderful? They smell like crisp fall mornings and new words and new ideas and new beginnings . . .

You got all that out of one sniff?

My favorite subjects are reading and spelling. What're yours?

Lunch and recess.

Here comes the bus!

Wait! I don't want to go to school! I'm smart enough. I want my mommy!