Common Core Standards

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Questpedition for a Literary Author/Illustrator-in-Residence

Quester on a questpedition.
How does one bottle the vast and varied experiences of an artist-in-residence? My mind keeps going back to the early autumn days on the shores of Martin Lake. Lichen-covered hill, spicy sweet fern, and jack pine breezes. Eagles and large-mouth bass! Aurora borealis and wolf howl in the early morning. Just a few things that will keep my spirit charged through the months ahead.

Looking high and low. Lichen beauties.
I began my U.P. questpedition at the end of July while I was in Marquette exhibiting my books at the Outback Art Fair. There I met Dr. Nancy Seminoff of the Literacy Legacy Fund Michigan (LLF of MI) An educator and past dean at Northern Michigan University, Dr. Nancy and I discussed creative ways to promote literacy in Michigan. Since I had been artist-in-residence for both state and national parks in Michigan, we both decided to launch a new endeavor, an author/artist-in-residence in the Upper Peninsula. In fact, Dr. Nancy dubbed my stay, my A.I.R. as the Questpedition for Story, based on the title of my latest Holly Wild book and book that was donated to the libraries and kids of K.I. Sawyer.

The quester--hero--must find
the magic potion or cure, to
bring back to the people.
I would stay two weeks at Dr. Nancy's cottage outside of Marquette to create art and poetry for a new book project of mine on wolves. I would in trade for the stay present a program for children in K.I. Sawyer, speak with teachers at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, and fit in a book signing event at Falling Rocks Cafe & Bookstore in Munising. In addition to all of that, I will create a collaged, handmade book for LLF of MI to use as for fundraising at a later date. Whew! That's good, because I am BOOKED (heheh) right now, illustrating for a few clients.

K.I. Sawyer Community Center fun.
So with kayak, guitar, laptop, art supplies, and BOOKS in tow, the Big Blue Bear Track Bookmobile van and I made the trek--questpedition--north. Off to write, draw, and read. Silence. Solitude. Scenery. Yes, all that, but also a blend of meeting and talking with amazing kids, teens, tweens, librarians, counter help, musicians, food service people, teachers, bookstore owners, museum volunteers, and not just listening to, but truly hearing their stories, packing them away into my mind.

Showing the kids "the BIG picture"
of artist-in-residences past.
It is said, and I find it true, that during the creative process one needs to get up and get away and allow images and words to incubate. So I incubated often by bass fishing and kayaking. Taking drives into Marquette (pronounced by U.P. born folk as "market") to the Children's Museum, a quick side-trip to see Grand Island off Sand Point on Lake Superior, and a visit to the Laughing Whitefish Falls--a truly spectacular sight. Then it was back to "studio" time.

The words and art came at first were planned. But they were too predictable. Then the more I got out and away, images and words seemed to fall into place. The land spoke to me. The wind, ever constant (the cottage is named "Breezy Point"). Then somewhere between the flashing red darter dragonflies and sun-bathing painted turtles, I heard my voice. My voice filled the pages of my newly purchased and redesigned sketchbook. This would be a different book, an art book, a book for teens, adults. A story, a meditation--on life--through the eyes of a wolf and young girl. A kind of writing I had not done in a long, long time. It was exciting. The words and art became fresh and I was excited how they fell onto the pages.

How does one bottle the experiences of an artist-in-residence questpedition? They engage all of their senses and record in word and picture--then share it. A sketchbook becomes the magic, elixir, potion that heals and inspires. This treasure that the quester finds and brings back to the village, cures the people and themselves in the act of sharing the gift. So I share my bit of U.P. autumn A.I.R.with you.
Grand Island view from Sand Point.

Laughing Whitefish Falls. Can you hear the whitefish? 

Morning Rainbow from the deck!

Dinner awaits.
Evening autumnal meal overlooking Martin Lake.

Falling Rock Cafe & Books is an amazing place to spend the day! 

The collaged cover of my sketchbook "dummy".
Ephemera from my surroundings, poetry, drawings.

Tracks at the top of Laughing Whitefish Falls
Then two weeks later, in the wee hours of the morning, the day I was to leave my A.I.R., I heard the low, moaning, mournful cry of a wolf outside the cottage window.

The crowning experience, the seal of a mission accomplished. Oh, to bottle the rainbow colors, the flashing aurora, the crunch of dry lichen, the splash of bass leaping among lily pad, the whoosh of wings from the bald eagle overhead, the plop of turtles sliding off the abandoned beaver lodge at my approach. 

But that sound, that wolf song. Ah, to bottle that wildness of spirit. This--this is what I must try to capture not only in my art book but the art book to be donated to the LLF. A gathering of elements to inspire writing and literacy in Michigan. My work has begun, my questpedition is complete.
Last paddle on the lake in front of the cottage.

Sketch of Place. Field notes of my visit.

"My LLF of Michigan artist-in-residency was different than the others I've participated in, as the two weeks spent was a balance of public events where I listened and shared stories with people and the peaceful solitude of nature. During this time, I was pleased to complete a story "dummy", poetry, art, design, and layout for my graphic novel all of which was totally inspired by my A.I.R. stay." Lori Taylor 

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Kool Pre-K to Kindergarten Book Kickstarter Kick-off!

I grew up in Clarkston, MI. The woods and pond were my playground. My siblings and I had an awesome gravel pit to jump and black muck pond to play in.
Later, as my kids grew up in Goodrich, we planted and played in the clay
Now my grandkids visit me in Pinckney. Here, we romp on five acres of sandy soil. 
Michigan has such diverse habitat! And if there is just one thing kids love--it's DIRT. The substrate of where they live and play. It becomes part of them--literally! I say this as I watched my youngest 2 1/2 half year-old granddaughter joyfully toss dirt into the air and have it rain down her shirt--before rolling in the grass.

Harkens to mine and my children's
childhood. Whether rural Clarkston
 or suburbs of Goodrich, kids
"dig treasure"--garbage!
Rocks, sticks, water. These are kid's first outdoor play things. It keeps them creative, healthy, and soaking up vitamin D. This is the focus of my new picture book, HOLLY WILD: The Young GeEK's Guide to Getting Outside. Get kids out and into the dirt and into the backyard for wild "kid time!"

The visible neighborhood in back
offers a safe feeling, yet wild enough
for play! (My brother and I had a
yellow tent growing up in Pontiac.)

"Kid time" is a time for kids to be themselves, a time for exploring with no "helicopter parents" hovering to direct or misdirect nature activities.

As the author of "How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature", Scott D. Sampson says, "let  them (kids) learn and engage like the playful scientists they were born to be...Throughout these early childhood years,  the primary goal is wonder, and more wonder." (A fabulous book BTW!)
In "The Young GeEK's Guide to Getting Outside", the book covers a day of unstructured, wandering play--which means learning through sensory investigation. The very things I present about in classroom visits.

How many of you growing up did this?
How many of you still do?
In the book, our young GeEKs (Geo-Explorer Kids) in training are being gently guided by Holly Wild and her Team on an Alphabet Adventure into the wild BACKYARD! Although not an adult, Holly has learned some things in her 10 1/2 years, and imparts cool stuff and smart stuff to kids. Things like: outdoor observation skills, what NOT to touch, and what to poke, and then ends the young cousins' day in a tent for a nap. (Looks like the energetic youngsters were keeping Holly and her Team, Tierra and Sierra, on the run).
Fun reader prompts and games inside.
Just like in the mid-grade Holly Wild
books. Sweet stuff for lil GeEKs to do!
Clarkston folk will
recognize this sign. Tee-hee!
When I began the book I figured it was an ABC of outdoor things Holly Wild would encourage. But as I began illustrating it the "story" unfolded quite magically( as usual)! My childhood popped up, my own children's "back forty" adventures squeaked out, and even my forays into our wild five- acre Pinckney yard here with my granddaughter oozed out between the cracks! 

Make time for Tent Time!
I began to research my memories and new discoveries (see Scott Sampson's book title above). Holly Wild has her adventures throughout "exotic" places and parks in Michigan. Beaver Island, Porcupine Mountains, Sleeping Bear Dunes (notice they are all animal names!), which I find is right on target for kids her age. But what kids the age of 2-6, the recipients of my new book, require is a more kinder, gentler landscape to roam. Of course! Their own backyard!

So the book became more personal as the cry for getting kids into the dirt and into nature becomes louder (I've long been a follower of Richard Louv). And for good reason. Dirt and nature time is vital--let me repeat--VITAL for kid's health, school work, happiness--their well-being! Check out the Children & Nature page on Facebook or hop over to their site for more info. Yay! I was on the right path.

This rhyming ABC book is full-color, hard cover, 36 page, 9 x 11" landscape book (the "original laptop!") is perfect for a quick nighttime or naptime read (PreK-Kindergarten ages). Of course, the prompts and games further the experience and keeps the book fresh each time it's read. 

We here at Bear Track Press are proud of this piece as it promotes the environmental and educational values that goes into all of our works. And even better, it will be printed right here in the USA! What better time to release this Kickstarter for this project during June, Great Outdoors Month.

And if you believe in all of this good outdoor stuff, just watch the video below and visit the Kickstarter site. You'll find all kinds of goodies and free things that go along with the book and awesome rewards to inspire you to inspire families and kids to GET UP and GET OUT! But you have to act soon because we have 28 more days in our campaign!

Let's all GROW great kids! Thanks!