Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I just came across the first extant piece I ever wrote and illustrated.  ("Extant" means that there may have been earlier examples...but they apparently no longer exist.)  A few notes before I continue:  I was living, the eldest of 8 children (only 4 having made their appearance by the time of my piece), on a farm in southern Vermont, where my artist father and writer mother---back-to-the-landers from Manhattan---had created, among other things, an enormous vegetable garden, and a blue-ribbon herd of dairy goats (this last began because I was allergic to cow's milk, I am told).  Lastly, one of my sisters is truly named Clyde---the author with whom I later collaborated on many children's books.  (I didn't seem to deem it necessary to give a name to the other little sister...who was Linda, and a few months old.)  I transcribe my piece here to the best of my abilities (given the limitations of Blogger---I can't show all the erasures left behind as I apparently pondered one possible spelling after another):

on The river  Re   Rode there was a farme.  and there was a Daddy and a Mommy and a Big Brother and a Big sister and two little sisters.  the frest day thay moved in thay began to Pot new wellpapper on and new Floor in and new Seeling.  than they moved in and satolD   Doye    Downe.  

this is how they Got their FooD.  Own sonny morning thay weate out and BeGan to malke a Garden.  they plated carets and Bets and Corn  patotos  Pes  SParoGS  StrowBareis  and RasBareis.  every morning CLYDE gos out to the chicken house and gathers the eGGS.  CLYDE and Peter PLaY toGether all Day Loge Whith their trucks.  Whan Lunch is raedy CLYDE Peter Wndy Go in and eat their Dinnr then the Little own’s Go and have a LittLe nap then they Go out Doors again.  Peter 5   CLYDE 2   Wendy 7

every niGHt and morning BUD*  Goes out and MilK’s the Goets.  then he stranZ the milk and pots it in too Gors.  than in the morning Peter and CLYDE and Wendy gat up and have a Bowl oof oatmeal and milk.  then PetRR and CLYDE Go out DooRs with their Daddy and help him milk the Goats.  71 Goats and 7 Goats milking.  and that is HOW the Watsons Got Going.

*["Bud" was my father's nickname, to other adults.  We children, though,  called him "Daddy".] 

As I consider this creation, several points come to mind:  I'm rather...ahem, surprised?...that my penmanship and spelling left so much to be desired.  (Although you  have to admit that the spelling was very...creative.)  On the other hand, the voice is definitely brisk and confident.  I had clearly already learned that, as Mark Twain said, one should never let facts get in the way of a good story---I doubt that 2-year-old Clyde, for example, was actually helping to milk the goats, or climbing daily into the chicken house to gather---and possibly break---the eggs.  
And the illustration?...well, I seemed already quite at home with manipulating a pencil.  And I clearly knew that an artist always puts her name to her work.

Friday, January 6, 2012


My daughter thought she would improvise a double boiler by putting one saucepan inside another.  I guess the combo worked fine as a double boiler, but when it came time to separate the two pans...STUCK!  When I Googled "separate two stuck saucepans,"  I discovered that this is an all-too common problem. Suggestions for separating the saucepans fell into two categories:  The Hammer and Tongs approach (tapping...pounding...bashing); and the Fire and Ice approach (heat the outer pan while simultaneously cooling the inner pan---one will expand, the other will contract---Presto!  at least in theory).
A manuscript can also get STUCK:  The plot twist just won't come straight; the clunky transition refuses to glide and dance; the perfect word will not make its appearance on cue.  Most writers---including myself---have tried the Hammer and Tongs approach, or the Fire and Ice approach, on uncooperative manuscripts.  But we have some additional techniques at our disposal, which could be put under the heading of the Sideways approach.  I've used several variations over the years.  Put the manuscript in a drawer, mental or physical, shut the drawer tightly and with vigor, and ignore the manuscript until it calls to me in a loud voice.  Put the manuscript in another room, mental or physical, and do something else like bake or hike---but keep the door open in case of promising noises.  Keep the manuscript in the same room with me, but stop staring at it head on---instead stay aware of it out of the corner of my eye, using only peripheral vision, as one does with nervous animals, or hard-to-see stars, and wait for it to relax and change when it thinks I'm not looking.  In my experience, the gentler Sideways approaches are more effective than the Fire and Ice or Hammer and Tongs approaches.  Just this morning it happened again as I was brushing my teeth:  something slip-slid in my mind, and a manuscript that had been STUCK became UNSTUCK.
As for the saucepans---they are, at the moment, and despite all attempts, still Stuck.