Common Core Standards

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Place of One's Own

The floor is red oak and cherry leaf, a soft, green moss throw rug sits in the middle and a tiny red cedar sapling sits off to one corner--she doesn't say much. The roof is sky and rustling oak leaves.This is a room of my own, a place of my making with the help of Mother Nature.

I didn't know it at the time, but my search for "place" began with a chair. An old rocker I bought years ago that began rotting by Marie's studio, I dragged up to the woods for a place to sit. To hunt. Hunting gave me and it a purpose. I sat in the morning and evening in my plaid wool shirt and Stormy Kromer after stringing my bow (it took four tries to string it!)

Hunting in the "chair" gave me a purpose to hit the woods, leave the trail and work and dishes behind. I had searched for a place to sit and under the big cherry tree was a start. I tried that for a few days, but it didn't feel right, too exposed--no matter how many branches I piled around it. My eyes kept crossing the trail to the woods. A natural place to hide.
But stubbornly I moved my chair up the hill behind the cherry. Between two pines--one red and the other white--it sat. This was nice. Cozy. I'm a pine girl. But still didn't feel right. Then the next morning I saw her--a doe stepped out into the predawn right past the area I had contemplated--the place across the trail from the cherry.

It took a few days for the idea to strike my mind, but while the girls watched football last Saturday I went exploring. I had an idea. I found the old deer blind that had been collapsed on the ground under brush for as long as I can remember since living here. It was a place where I thought animals lived. No recent tracks though. It had also been a place I went to pout and throw myself on--watching for rusty nails. I lifted one corner expecting the wood to crumble. It didn't.

It was perfect. I would resurrect the old deer blind. Unsafe, rusty nailed, rotted boards decorated by Mother Nature. Dirt, fungus and spider web held cherry and oak leaf glued in place on the boards. A natural collage. Most of the boards were still sturdy and HEAVY it was. I stood up the walls. The first wall had a hinged door still attached. This was my support wall. Then I stood the other and leaned them against each other much like a house of cards with the help and support of two oak trees.

I was too excited. It made a nice blind to hide and watch the wild world in. I had always loved my father's deer blind in Mio--seeing the world through rectangular windows, cropping and composing nature in a pleasing way. I tossed in a camp chair from the RV and voila! I was set. Rickety home, sweet, home.

Seed and nut gift for critters
Stomping out at 7 a.m. a few days ago I ran into a buck staring at me in the trail. Whoops! Too late. The end of hunting for the morning. But I did have a friendly chickadee visit me hopping around on my hat. So the next day I went out at 6:15 a.m. at 29 degrees it was chilly cold--but sit I did for two hours. No wildlife. Chickadee stopped by but didn't stay. So yesterday I took seed out for chickadee and a dream-catcher I got in the mail. When I hung the catcher inside, it dawned on me. A room of my own! A sit place for sketching. My place has an double oak sentinel door, mossy welcome mat and all.

For as long as this structure stands, this will be my special fort or clubhouse. A place to create, hunt, listen, pout if I have to or just sit with nature and enjoy. A natural room with a natural view. I will sit and sketch life here as the seasons pass. The window frames and holds ever changing art and offers me a look at Hawthorne and Cherry, Oak and Pine neighbors as I sip coffee.
Cherry tree view with path to  my "place"

Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting Kids INTO the OUTDOORS

Happy Color-filled Days!

Back from Tustin Michigan where I delivered a keynote speech at the Michigan Alliance for Environmental Education last weekend. I thought I would share some of my speech from that rainy, rainy, rainy, cold, cold day--that day of equipment hunting and set up challenges--which is the day my speech was delayed by a half an hour to a hurried group. Needless to say by the time I hit the podium I was sweating bullets. As folks lunched I had to move fast and share about the importance of story to get kids into nature and about my life as a storyteller.

I shared about how it all began--from way back.  How at age 6,my family went from living in the city of Pontiac to wild Clarkston--to live a safer, healthier life.
How my mother used to warn us kids of wild animals to keep us close to home. "WATCH out for:"  yowling wildcats that filled the woods, Massasauga rattlesnakes (we lived on their breeding ground), rabid roaming raccoons, and wily foxes that raided the hen house in the early morning. But it was the dreaded and feared badger that got our attention and kept us on our toes. That warning we heard every time we walked to the bus stop. That thrilling ever present badger danger made nature exciting and kept us outside exploring. Stories of creepy, gross and dangerous things enthrall kids.

This is how Holly Wild book one came to be--it was the story of my nature mishap on Beaver Island. Our imaginations got carried away with us when our squishy, brown arm-length find of a creepy kind lying on the shore of Lake Genesrath became not plant or animal but a human arm. It was the thrill of finding something unknown that made the event a good story. How it came around to be human beats me. Maybe it was the approaching storm, the green sky, the pelting hail, screaming kids. Who knows. But story was born--and heck it was adventure and we were all out exploring. Besides, this naturalist mishap turned into a teaching moment. The biologist at the CMU Bio station informed us that the "creepy arm" was a "pine snake" (pretty close--plant & animal name)  spatterdock rhizome--he was kind and patient with us and even showed us around.

Years later when I had a woman stop by the nature center I worked at, I got to use this kind, patient stance as the woman asked me. "So when does the Hummingbird Moth turn into a Hummingbird?" How or where she got this notion I have no idea. But I am sure it came from the same place where we thought the Beaver Island rhizome was an arm. The colorful world of imagination, curiosity and wondering. I had walked in this woman's shoes before. Of course the answer was NEVER, but at least this brave woman asked--and she was outside on a nice day wondering and wandering. It is good story.

I went on to tell the lunching crowd about the time I went sketching with a pal at Howell Nature Center. I also told them why having a sketching buddy is a good thing--they become your witness. While drawing a sleepy porcupine in its enclosure, my friend Matt and I overhead an older woman telling a young boy of 6 or 7, "Did you know that porcupines fling their quills that release poison to stun their attackers?" Both Matt and I turned to watch the woman and child hurry away. Wow! Where do these myths come from?

Nature myths seem to make nature so much more exciting. Then it hit me, will this kid grow up and tell his grand-kids something like "DID you know KNOW that porcupines inflate their hollow quills when they hold their breath, float over  their attackers and scream "Death from Above!" and then fall on the predator stunning it before blowing it to bits and poisoning it?" Nature educators have their jobs cut out for them. But the good thing here was--at least an adult had a child outside on a beautiful day to see nature and wonder about it.

Which brings me to my recent story at a library program where a young lady informed the crowd of kids that "snapping turtles climb out of their shells at the first sign of danger and that they have long sharp teeth--so beware of snappers!" That myth was gently dispelled and it actually went well with our weird animal theme. Kids had to create their own animal and find and draw their super adaptation powers in the Biofact Boxes of creepy: bones, bugs, bats, snakeskin, etc. And I had to wonder as this young storyteller bought both Holly Wild books from me, "Is another writer and storyteller born?" We can only hope.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Livin' The DREAM!

Holy Schmoley! Stop the Presses--OK, STOP my brain! Somebody please.

I can't believe how long it has been since I last blogged. I guess I have been busy. We at Bear Track Studios and Bear Track Press are always busy, but craziness is the word around here. We have just gotten the go ahead to put our HOLLY WILD book series out there in big numbers with offset printing. Offset printing means reediting and revising files--art and word. Lots of work there.

Then enters crazy fun commission stuff--like Paul Bunyan's great-grandkids--that hit the art table last month. Designing woman I am!
"Cookin' Cakes" by Lori Taylor
"And Choppin' Kindlin'" by Lori Taylor
Here are a couple of color sketches as I try to come up with the two brother characters. Still working on final designs--but you get the picture--I have to be in lumberjack mode. Which is great, because I love pancakes and flannel--two of my all time favorites. And axes.

Next, comes a picture book design for Mother Nature. But, not your ordinary Mother Nature--oh, no. Mutha Natcha! Mutha dons leopard print tights, pearls and frilled apron with scarf-wrapped blue hair and cat's eye glasses! Yeah, baby--now that's one WILD mother. And why the heck not? She totally rocks the nature world. I mean, look what we walking-talker humans have done to her. You gotta have a sense of humor to deal with the likes of us--her messy kids.
Mutha N. and her children
Of course, we all have pet projects that we take out from time to time to work on, eh? I don't mean HOLLY WILD Book 3, although I have been researchin', writing' and workin' on that and book 4--but eh as in you understand, right? The project I am working on is the art for a manuscript I wrote a few years back. The research and art from that came from field notes I took back in 1993. About time to get to it I'd say, eh?

Sanilac Petroglyphs Sketch by Lori Taylor

I have been wanting to write on the Sanilac Petroglyphs for a loooooong time. I start and put away and repeat about six times--every year--in September. There is something about September light and color that brings about introspection and drawing.

The story is about a young girl--no tribe in particular--the tribe of walking-talker humans maybe? Otter, I call her now, take a river journey--unintentional--goes through trials, discovers the rock and inscribes her stories on the back of the turtle-shaped sandstone the size of a classroom. I am doing the book in mixed media with pencil drawings of the story. (I can't wait to see the final outcome. It is stacked on the table in pieces at the moment.)
Concept Ink Sketch of Otter in the Cass River
If you are curious, go visit the glyph-covered (etched drawings) rock. Sanilac Petroglyph State Park is near Bad Axe in New Greenleaf Township. There are cool trails to hike and the ground thunders as you step upon soil--covered bedrock. A nice way to spend a fall day--before hunting begins. (I used to help do school visits to the area there of native food production and storytelling)  The area is truly a hidden Michigan jewel.

On Monday, Marie and I took a break and visited Seven Ponds Nature Center in Dryden. We both fell in love with the gorgeous prairie that hummed with life. Birds and bugs buzzed, the grasses waved and wildflowers showed off their blooms. Fantastic! If you feel stressed out--get thee to a prairie! Quick before the flowers go.

Mae Day Aug. 16, 2012
So you can see why I haven't blogged in so long. Oh, yes, I almost forgot! A new baby! My new granddaughter, tiny Mae Elizabeth Beaudoin made August a truly special month. A new walking-talker human, GeEK grandchild to schnoozle and cuddle!

So what is next on my agenda other than Oakland County Parks & Rec. artwork? A mural for the Pinckney Community Library, finishing up all these projects, time to get outdoors--and of course, babysitting!

Living the Dream! Times Ten!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

NEW Holly Wild Book 2 Arrival!

"You there boy, do you know what day it is?" I screamed down to Marie as she watered the garden.
"Uh, Christmas Day, sir?" she replied, looking up at me on the balcony. There I stood, my hair frizzled, wearing three day-old clothes (inside out and backward) with one chicken-poop covered slipper on and my glasses tangled and sitting atop my aforementioned hair and frazzled head.

"NO! It's the day before Holly Wild Book Two comes out," I yell and laugh maniacally as I toddle back into the house tripping over the other slipper, as well as the fan and the cat napping in the dog-bed. I don't get out much. 

Or at least I haven't gotten out much due to getting the book two out in time for our July 18th deadline (hence the three day old clothes--underwear not included). Since June, I have worked feverishly and furiously on getting the manuscript done, edited and dropped into my publishing program. I have worked diligently and deliriously, without stop, on scads and oodles of illustrations. I have worked with fear gripping my heart like a vise, or more like slamming it in a car door five times--as I saved, worked on, revised and fixed files to go to print.

Naturally, with all this intense work comes fear. Fear of storms wiping out my work, fear of my hard-drive crashing, fear of the cat dancing on the keyboard and wiping out my work and crashing my hard-drive. Fear of the files suddenly and mysteriously being wrong...fear that I forgot something...fear that I misspellled the first word of the chapter...see! Like that! Misspell! I could go on. Really, I could. Too much coffee, too much keyboard and not enough human contact.

How I look most of the time. (flies included)
The girls (Marie and Lisa--my Team) have been at art shows during much of this final pre-print phase, so it's been me and the chickens, me and the cats, and me and the dog eating popcorn together. And frankly, they really don't give that much feedback.

So the file went in, cover and all, last week. Crossing my fingers, my eyes and my toes (which is not easy after my big toe removal and replacement surgery a few years back)--I hit DOWNLOAD FILES. Gone. Weeks, months, and five years worth of story and memory--gone to the printer--to print lots of books, so it better be right.

Building a book is much like labor and delivery. I know. Been there, done that--twice. It think childbirth was easier. I did get to do my Lamaze breathing throughout file changes, cover sizing and pagination. I did have ice chips and my little fan nearby throughout ISBN, copyright and Library of Congress paperwork. I do look a little crazed, wild and woolly, like being in transition. Then afterward, calm and relief  after the cord and download portal is cut. Now my book is in the hands and rollers of the printer.
My Editorial Team dancing! (because I changed my clothes)

So what day is it today? "THE DAY BEFORE HOLLY WILD (BOOK TWO) Let Sleeping Bear Dunes Lie, COMES OUT!" So let's dance! But just for a moment or two because...

Next week I will be signing MANY books up at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, then over to Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor then up to the Superior Children's Book Festival in Sault Ste. Marie...and in the midst of that, putting Book 3 together!

Get UP! Do the DUNES! Get your 
Holly Wild: (Book 2) Let Sleeping Bears Lie  Bear Track Press, $12.99
ISBN 978-0-615-65973-2

Friday, April 13, 2012

Go Be a GeEK!

Spring is here! Go be a GeEK (Geo-Explorer Kid).  Earth Day is coming! Go be a GeEK. Arbor Day, Michigan Week, May Day, Birthday, any day...go be a GeEK! My granddaughter and my kids are GeEKS and so am I--and now many children in North Branch, MI are too.

How do you become a GeEK? Simple. Get up, get out, and get dirty and muddy, get wet and wild. Come to your senses! Wake up and smell the skunk cabbage, listen to the bees, taste a sun-soaked violet flower, feel the moss under your toes, and look--really look, at the world around you. Use binoculars, a microscope or hand lens--or just your own two eyes. Roll around and rejoice in your GeEKiness!

Sit under a tree. Splash in a vernal pool. Hike a ridge and "make like a tree"--stand tall, walk slowly, and stop often. Being a GeEK is not an aerobic sport. You can't really and truly enjoy and appreciate the natural world at a fast pace. Slow down. Take a collecting bag for goodies or garbage or both. Take a lunch, take a pack, take a pillow. Take a poking stick, a hiking stick. Take a friend--young or old. You are never too young or too old to be a GeEK!
GeEK Gear! Collection bag, bottles, hiking stick, pack and snack!

Sing to a butterfly--that tiny, blue spring azure that flits by. Or sing to the speedwell in your lawn--that tiny, blue flower growing close to the ground. Write about your GeEK time or draw it or a bit of it. Be friends with other GeEKS and talk about it. There is no shame in being a GeEK. So get up, get out and GO BE A...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Springing!

A breather at last! Happy springing into Spring everyone.

It's been a busy couple of weeks with county exhibits, Book Two revisions and the visiting of North Branch Elementary School with Kenny and Holly Wild books. I gave a talk and slide show and had kids pulling "biofacts" (dead things) out of a bag and shouting HERP! or NOT a HERP! I was surprised to see how observant they were. They had a great time and so did I. At the end of the presentation Kenny, my corn snake, took a bow. Of course, Kenny was a hit and stole the day. He got to be touched by over 600 kids. Here he is later in the afternoon getting acquainted with a few of my granddaughter's classmates.

Each child in Mrs. Jenuine's class got to make "poking sticks" and stamped animal tracks on them. Not to worry, they received proper poking etiquette--as soon as they had the sticks in their hot little hands! Hopefully, they are out discovering their greening world like good North Branch GeEKS (Geo-Explorer Kids) during their spring break.

So with all that busyness behind me, I took the day off today. I have been putting together a tiny vernal pool in an aquarium and watching the life within it. A calming hobby. I wanted to find some snail food (an excuse to get dirty) and see what else was kicking outside, so I had to get up, get out and get wild and get to the local vernal pool.

Wow! Fun stuff those pools. Still chilly outside, there was little frog song, yet I had a great time. I got to see a tiny polliwog hiding in leaves and my first fairy shrimp. Those wigggly-legged, micro-crustacean buggers are a half inch long--larger than I would have thought. I was looking for them when one popped its head into the sun for a minute. Thrill of the day. Fairy Shrimp
The water striders were striding and the water boatmen boating (no motor zone here--only 6" deep). I spotted a caddisfly larva with a house of sticks on its back. How cool is that? Needless to say, I was covered with pond water and vernal mud by the time I was done pond watching.

If you have time or are as curious as I am about vernal pools, pop on over to the vernal pool website above to learn more about the value of these spring waterholes of life and their value to the environment. As I left the pool, I got to see a few herps on their own outing--a garter snake climbing the hill and a wood frog on the bridge I crossed. I'm heading out again tomorrow--same time, same place, same nature channel.

Celebrate waking life and grab a poking stick and head to the woods and GO FIND SPRING!


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

March is Reading Month: CONTEST GOES WILD!

March is Reading Month! To celebrate I am giving away to one lucky winner a copy of the Manatees Gentle Giants in Peril by Mary Unterbrink (the very same book shown in my last Florida blog) and a signed copy of Holly Wild:  Bamboozled on Beaver Island (Book 1)!  *See details below!

Why? To celebrate March as a month of reading, a month of learning, a month of entertaining--and reading! Also, to celebrate the editing process, beginning today, of Holly Wild:  Let Sleeping Bear Dunes Lie (Book 2). Aw heck, it's to celebrate knowledge...(and the fact that I bought a repeat copy of the Manatee book) as well as to celebrate that sharing is fun!

Why give away that Manatee book that I read in my tent in a storm in Florida? Let me tell you. It was the very first Earth Day many years ago when I, Lori Eiden (Taylor), was in 5th grade in North Sashabaw Elementary in Clarkston, MI (ummm over 40 years ago) that I heard of the Roseate Spoonbill and Endangered Species. Both sounded so far away and unknown to me.

Since then I have researched, reported and read about many endangered species, used guide books, read magazines and children's books about wildlife and gone out fully-equipped with knowledge (sometimes!--see alligator photo from last blog post) to meet them on their own turf. I do this to learn, connect, and share this experience with others. A mighty fine job indeed!
"Rosie the Spoonbill" in bottom right corner.
My trip to Florida, my new love of manatees and my continuing desire to educate, entertain and spread the "word" on endangered species has inspired me once again. That and my new souvenir Ron Jon tshirt that reads: "We All Live Under the Same Sun". According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Report there are "118 Florida Animal and Plant species listed (based on published historic range and population) ", out of which there are 53 endangered animals. Here is my list of the ones I've been lucky enough to see on recent Floridian vacations (most of which were found alive and well in State Parks and wildlife preserves--I'm sure there will be a Celebrate Parks Month giveaway in the future):
Drawings, sketches and illustrations help TELL the story!
  • American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis) Status: Species of special concern (state listing); threatened species (federal listing, due to its similarity in appearance to the endangered Florida crocodile).
  • Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja) Status: Species of special concern (state listing)
  • Florida Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pratensis) Status: Threatened species (state listing)
  • West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)  "Also called Sea Cow" Status: Endangered species (federal and state listing)
  • Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) Status: Endangered species (federal and state listing)
  • Southern Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocphalus leucocephalus) Status: Threatened species (federal and state listing)
  • Caracara, Audubon's crested FL pop. (Polyborus plancus audubonii)
  • Florida Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
*DETAILS:  So how does this all tie in to the contest? The contest! Prizes! Books! Stuff! I will draw the name of one lucky poster to this blog out of my backpack on March 31--at midnight, to make it even cooler and spookier--and announce the winner immediately on this blog! 

You start by posting a blog comment on this page or answer the following question, then sign your name and city/state where you reside.

WHO or WHAT inspired you to read, write or draw
about the world around you?

Starting today, March 1st, tell your kids, your friends, your teachers, your librarians, your scout leaders, your family to post here to win. It's just that easy and even more exciting!

I will send the winner the aforementioned books with signed copies of my Florida trip sketches and whatever else I can think of to throw in the package. (Batteries, dead things and Florida manatees are not included.)
My NookColor sketch of Me and the Manatees (Feb. 20, 2012)
Whether paperback, hardcover, sketchbook or ebook...
Keep reading, writing, drawing and READING!

(More Florida endangered species info here: )

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WILD Time in Florida!

The first time I went to Florida I think I brought home two bags of shells, bits of dead things, sand and over 300 pictures and never touched my sketchbooks. This time, my third time, I came home with two notebooks of sketches, 120 carefully chosen photo subjects and four specially selected shells.

Oyster shells make a fine paint
palette and water bowl. Here is a quick
tiny "dummy" book to keep a first
hand manatee experience fresh!
On this trip, Lisa and I once again took our kayaks and Marie traded in her kayak for a 12' canoe so we could haul gear to camp on Orange Island. What a wild time it was and it is always hard to come back home after a great trip. So here is "WHAT I DID ON MY WILD WINTER VACATION!" Hope you enjoy!

First stop, Blue Springs State Park. There we got to meet the good, the mad and the ugly. And this gator was not happy with me. "No pictures, please!" Kids don't try this at home.
Lesson Learned! Beware of alert gators--they move super fast! This fella was
about 12' feet away, if that, when he made a WILD dash for me in my kayak.
Marie reenacts a tense moment and points to where we had landed unbeknownst to another
gator who was resting--near us, maybe 9-10' feet away. CAUTION:  Look before you land your vessel.

On to something LARGER yet SAFER! Manatees! The first time I ever saw manatees--from shore-- they looked like inert blimps of suspended blubber--kinda like my new sleeping bag. Ehnh! But this time, we Bear Track girls were right out there in the thick of things in our kayaks, in the water, all up close and personal like. This day, the manatees were putting on a super performance as we sit mere feet away on the other side the flaoting safety-zone fence that keeps boaters out.

Across from us, people lined the shore to get a glimpse of the lovable aquatic mammals. How can you not love these big lugs? These sea cows of rolling, tumbling love waved, danced and came up out of the water for a bow. Tails, heads, and fins complete with finger nails! splashed and waved. I was tickled to hear a small boy from shore yell, "Hi, manatee!" as he waved back at one of the big beaties. 

The fence kept boats out, but manatees could come and go as they pleased. And they did! What a thrill and what squealing we did as a few 9-10 footers drifted up to inspect our crafts. Passing near us and under us and blowing out air. YOW! They were as curious of us as we were of them.

But my most favorite moment was when one manatee came up to the edge of my kayak and looked at me. Our eyes locked. (Lisa posted my FB comment that "you haven't lived until you've had a manatee look you in the eye.") Well, all I can say is that moment was incredible. To see those nostrils and those eyes look up inches below the water moved me. My first thought was, "What are you thinking right now?" These giant beings scarred from boat props, abused from pollution of fishing line, plastic bottles, bags and more and can still approach humans with such gentleness and curiosity is absolutely mind blowing. I would like to think that that little boy who yelled to the manatee would be as moved as I was and go on to tell people about awesome, amazing manatees and how to protect them.

Peek a boo! I see you!

That day was hard to beat. It left us feeling fabulous. But next we headed to the Canaveral National Seashore to kayak and camp on Orange Island. Site H1 (I thought the sign was welcoming us!) looked like it came straight right out of "Gilligan's Island". We were practicing with our brand new backcountry camping gear. 
Tent site on Orange Island. Brand spanking new Big Agnes tent. I
think I repostioned and reset the ties at least four times--before the
big storm hit that night.

We set up tents, had a few moments to explore the island, gather firewood and headed out again into the water for a quick boat trip. But with an impending storm and dark horizon we headed back to zip into tents early with a cold dinner (granola bars, jerky and bagel) ready for wind and rain to last all night.
Snake-like, tree-climbing cactus
Horse-shoe crab!

Indian Breadroot

So I sketched, painted and researched manatees in
my tent during the storm. Big Agnes kept me, my
 sketchbooks, clothes and sleeping bag dry all night.
Thanks Big Agnes! 

After seafood feasts, birdwatching and more, another WILD FLORIDA VACATION comes to a close. In the van, I painted memories using my oyster shell bowls that were picked up on the beach and watched the scenery go from June green to February browns. Until next time!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Books and More BOOKS!

I wrote in my last blog how my granddaughter, Kyah, fuels me to continue writing my Holly Wild series for kids. I originally had wanted to write more about how I started on this writing path because I was around her age when I really got into books. But I figured that subject deserved its own blog, just as Kyah deserved her own blog. So to celebrate the completion of my first draft of Holly Wild Book 2 today, I dedicate this blog to those who helped set me upon this bookly path!

Today, Lisa was on her way to the Pinckney Library to pick up my books for me when she came into my office and said, "Whoa, we have so many books." My response:  Yes, we do.

We have a library on every level of the house. Just yesterday, Marie jput a new book shelf in the living room to hold more! Yes, books we have. Books on nature, art, science, kid's books, picture books, fairy tales, Native American legends, philosophy, poetry, nature guides, painting guides, nature writers, nature artists, writing, animals, wild and tame, cats, chickens, crafting, skinning, hunting, fishing and how-to-do all of the above books, and the list goes on and on. I think books are holding this house together. I told Lisa, "I don't trust a house without books."
When did this start, how did it all begin?

Baby Lori, Dad, and 101
One Hundred and One Dalmatians. My father read this to me. It is what was done before bedtime, bathroom time, anytime. I craved more story. Bobby Dog and Tommy Goes Camping. Picture books were a an important staple. We lived in Pontiac until 1964, when we moved to Clarkston. And during those days in the city of Pontiac, my mother made sure my brother and I had outdoor adventure. Picnics were had in our yellow Lone Ranger Pup Tent. So this is where our adventure was born as well as the love of tents. (My brother, Mark, grew up to be a Ranger in the Airborne and did all kinds of nifty outdoor adventure.) We owe it all to the Lone Ranger.

Then on to Clarkston we went, a wildlife and wooded wonderland. Five acres of ponds and pines to play in and camp in. At age 9, my mother took me to the Clarkston Library (in a small white building today next to the old township hall) where sunlighted streamed in through the windows and shone upon shelves of many books! Glorious books! (I worked as a Page for the Goodrich Library in 2000--their little library reminded me of this tiny library that had had such a great impact on my life).

The first books I checked out were Paddington Bear (I ordered an Anniversary copy today--I love the original art) and The Waterbabies. I poured over the illustrations repeatedly and checked out the mximum limit I could get. We didn't have many books at home, so when my mother went shopping she would bring home an encyclopedia or a sale book from the local parochial school. (We had ten encyclopedias A-Am, and I learned to speak German from that sale book). On those shopping trips she might find magazines for us and I got Jack and Jill Magazine and Mark got Golden Magazine. But I usually took his magazine. I was so desperate for the written word that I once pulled his arm of socket on the way to the mailbox to get the summer Weekly Reader.
Storytelling ran strong in my blood and brain. These books helped that along I think. My imaginative tales once had my sister and cousin quivering in a corner when they babysat my brother and baby sister, Lisa, and me. After coming up with a whopper of a tale and seeing their panicked response...well, a storyteller and performer was born.

Lori age 4, Mark age 3, in Pontiac
I was a book junkie. Fifth grade brought Charlie Brown Peanuts Treasury and book fairs. We had a real, live poet come in to school and I bought a signed copy. It's still on my shelf today. Then came Jean Craighead George, My Side of the Mountain (I went to an Illustration talk at Kendall last week and heard that Jean still writes, traveled to Alaska for her latest book and she is 92 years old!) A book of adventure in the forest. I lived in a forest. And it was a chapter book with pictures! Love it. I reread it last year and the sequels, too.

In 6th grade, my teacher Mrs. Jordan helped push me onto this literary path. I can still see the green construction paper-covered Twelve Days of Christmas book I made in her class. But I will never forget her words. She told me that this is what I should do when I grew up. I have held on to those words for an entire what you say to children, you just might affect their lives and plant dreams!
My grandmother brought National Geographic magazines when she visited me and also gave me books every Christmas--those books were gold to me. I still can see their covers. Lassie and Bobbsey Twins. Birthday books I remember;  one from my sister, Joan, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. (I treasured that for its art and lyrical writing. It may be the first book that got me into myth and legends. I wish I had that version today) and 365 Short Stories Book from my friend Connie (see below).

As an adventure loving, nature child, storyteller, art making child (I made puzzles, mazes, board games and books from scratch) my life was steeped in the world of story and secret language. I partly took shorthand in high school because it's cool to write and have no one else know what you wrote. They should bring that back! Secret languages also includes petroglyphs and runes--but they came later as an adult. While I'm on the subject I won't even mention my love for secret decoding or the fact that I "borrowed' my friends secret PF Flyer (tennis shoes) decoder ring as a child. Sorry, Connie. Such was my desire for the written word--secret or otherwise. Oh, and I always wanted to be a comedian as a kid and adult and perform. of course, it's all about story and delivery.

So by taking all those things and dumping them in a bucket, I came out a children's writer and illustrator. I can crack corny jokes about scientifical things and draw pictures to help kids learn about the natural world. It's a perfect fit. And all these people and many more, helped me in small ways. This is why with every book I sign, I want to say something that will connect with the reader. Something that will give them some word of encouragement--just like those who encouraged me.

Lori Eiden, Kindergarten,
Andersonville Elementary
So remember those who gave you a special book.

A book that impressed you, made you laugh, made you cry, that taught you something, made you feel something or care about something and then tell that person thank you. Send them an email or better yet a card with stickers and drawings.

Now say a silent thank you if they are no longer here.

Thank you,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Kyah!

Just like the days when it was hard to sit down and work on a painting, there are days when it is hard to sit down and write. Writing a book is not easy. But with teamwork it gets easier and gets done.

Writing is hard work. Beside multiple revisions, spell check and grammar check, planning and layout, not to mention promoting and marketing--there are a lot of hats to wear. (It's a dang good thing that I like to wear hats. I have a special hat hook in my office and studio just for them.) Anyway, throw in all of those jobs and then the illustrating part when you are author/ illustrator. Toss in part-time job and a pinch of family time, and I find my days, weeks, months are full.

Then I hear my granddaughter, Kyah, say something like, "Gram, my friends and I started a GeEK club in school." It melts my heart, melts my stress and makes me crawl back to the computer and continue writing. And I think, "This is what--or better, who, inspires me to write my Holly Wild series."
It is Kyah, and kids like her, who inspire me to write. She is so caring, so full of life and full of love. For family, animals, anyone she meets. She is my shinging star, and I am thankful and grateful for her every day.

She has had a tough time in this world, not the easy going life like my kids had. This kid started off a fighter as an infant. I rmember, the doctor coming in the room after her birth, that she had serious doubts of things coming out OK. Scary business!

Then Kyah went on to handle all kinds of familial issues and strife throughout the seven years of her sweet life. But always, she was strong, forgiving, accepting--loving. It helps that she's had a pretty danged good team help raise her. From ALL of her grandparents, to aunts and uncles and friends, Kyah has had undying support of those who love her--and what's not to love about a kid who has more wisdom, patience, intelligence and love than I've ever seen.

Kyah, is at the top of her class and is a pretty good dancer too. And being of artistic lineage--both sides of the family--she wows her family and teachers with her attention to fine detail. Already she is winning coloring contests in school and her drawings and humor sparkles. OK, you get it, the child is precious--like all of them. And so it is for her--them, I that I write. Kyah told me yesterday, as I called her for her 7th birthday, that she had to choose a favorite book in school and write and draw about it.

Of course, she chose Holly Wild. (Need to make her head of marketing that one!) She drew Tierra and Sierra and Holly--perfectly, she says. And that she drew Holly's hat button, "get up" and the others. Detail! I can't wait to see that drawing--it makes my heart skip. It also reminds me once again, that my books connect with kids.

For the few hours that I have their imaginations and minds, I had better say what I have to say correctly and in a humorous, loving way to teach them well. I am delivering story, art, nature and science and these kids will decide what they keep and what they will discard--so it better be good! These kids are the future stewards of the Earth, starting right now. This is an awesome responsibility and gift that I have to give. Gulp! Times ten! I wonder at times if I can deliver, but with my Team Wild behind me, I know they won't let me fail! I may trip or stumble on this book journey, but Kyah will help me up:) To that I say, "Thanks for being part of my team, Kyah!"

Happy Birthday Kyah! You rock!
Grandma Lori
Kyah "rocking out"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Putting the Pen to the Paper and Feet to the Ground

Happy New Fantastic Year of the Dragon 2012 to all.
Hatchling Dragon Illustraton by Lori Taylor
Time to blog again, oh how time flies! 2012--the Year of the Dragon. A year filled with luck and energy. Dragons are the doers of the world and don't sit and wait for things to happen, they make things happen!

I don't know about you but here is my Dragon Bucket List for 2012:
  1. Apply for the Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence Program so I can get good stuff for Holly Wild Book 4.
  2. Outfit myself and train and get fitter--er--fit for backpacking Isle Royale.
  3. Use less 'em' dashes in my writing for 2012.
  4. Stay focused on my books in 2012. Working on Holly Wild Book 2 and Book 3 is in the mental, as well as the notebook, works. Less art shows, more family fests.
  5. Get out more, do more, learn more, see more, experience more--draw more. Oops, there goes an em dash! Pencil on the go this year.
OK, I guess that's a good start and not too much or overwhelming. I have to get the dragon-share of this done before my daughter gives birth to grandchild number two this August. Grandma may be running into the hospital with muddy hiking boots.

I've been working out and hiking--without a pack on for now. That comes next month. Right now I am waking up my knees and letting them know they have serious work to do. Also, I'm excited about Big Agnes and Lulu who will be going with me on my journeys this summer. They sound like barroom bouncers but in actuality they are my tent and sleeping bag.

I have been promoting Holly Wild and have classes coming up in February (that was on my list by I crossed it off ten minutes ago)--but who am I kidding--that's a full time, never ending job. I also revamped my website, another to do that got done!

THINGS TO DO and SEE! This weekend we are running up to Tawas to look for Snowy Owls. I also hear tell that there is a Great Gray Owl in Essex County, Ontario. Day trip!

When we get back there is an Illustration Exhibit at Kendall College in Grand Rapids and I still hope to get to the Great Lakes Zoological Society's new home on Jackson Road in Ann Arbor!/GreatLakesZoo sometime this month to see their reptiles and amphibians. WHEW!

Sounds like the Year of the Dragon is going to keep me on my toes! What does your 2012 Dragon Bucket List Look like?

Rahhrr! Good Health & Good Energy!