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
 Dalmations
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 lifetime...watch 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,
Love,
Lori

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!
Love,
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 http://www.pinckneyschools.org/community-education/winter-brochure (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 http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/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!
Lori