Forgive me readers, it has been two months since my last post. My work load has picked up considerably, and by considerably I mean I finally have some after the economic meltdown of last year that left most of us scrounging in the couch cushions for grocery money, if one was lucky to still have a couch and hadn’t traded it for toilet paper or a shot at being first in line for the grocery bagging job.
In between juggling assignments, updating my Facebook status and expressing my deep disgust, both verbally and through the written word, of the final Lost episode, time has flown by.
This is typical for life here in the trenches. Projects never come nicely spaced, and if they do the space is soon eliminated by some crisis of biblical magnitude, anything from an editor going on vacation and “forgetting” to send you the revisions, to the washing machine deciding that draining the dirty water is too much trouble and it will wait for you to do it with a length of tubing and some lung power.
No matter how carefully one plans and schemes and pores over the calendar, it will never be a leisurely pace to the finish. Never. No, no, trust me, NE-VER. Remember those frantic college all-nighters? That is your life on freelancing, and unless you consider that grocery bagging job fun (it’s not) you will be thankful for it. Your social life will consist solely of the aforementioned Facebook updates, which is good considering personal hygiene also takes a back seat when deadlines loom. I like to alternate between Facebook and checking my website stats. For us regular Janes, even those of us who rocketed well past the planet of the horribly jaded in middle school, there is always the faintest glimmer of hope–maybe I’m about to be discovered (by whom and for what remains a bit nebulous). Maybe that hit from Moosebutt, Alaska is an editor on vacation. Perhaps right now, he is being wowed by the depth and skill of my work. Maybe he is picking up the phone RIGHT NOW. Maybe…huh? What? Oh right, right…where was I? You know on some level that it’s more likely your mom’s hairdresser’s cousin who just happens to be writing a children’s book and will soon be contacting you about some pro bono work, but still…checking one more time can’t hurt, can it?
The thing about stats that is the most fun for me is seeing all the different hits from countries other than the U.S. I usually get a nice handful each week from all over the globe, but recently noticed a deluge of hits from China, dozens! A little worried that I was suddenly on a watch list somewhere, I clicked on the referring link and found myself on a Chinese website, which roughly translated by Google (and I mean VERY roughly, as in surely there’s a verb in this sentence) turned out to be a site where people in China post illustration websites they’ve found and like. How cool is that! Me! Big in China! O.K. fine, maybe “big” is overstating it, but it gives me a little thrill anyway. We illustrators tend to lead a very isolated existence, shuffling to the mailbox in our slippers at four in the afternoon pretty much sums up most days’ outings, and to think that somewhere, on the other side of the world, another human being and I crossed paths in a way that could never, ever have happened before, well, that’s pretty darn cool. I spend a few minutes wondering about those folks, the ones who liked my website. What did they have for dinner? Where do they like to go for fun? What does their house look like? Where did they get that rug on the floor? And for a minute I feel a little more connected to my fellow human beings on this incredibly small planet.
Then it’s back to work.
“Come with me.”
“I’ll make eggplant Parmesan just for you.”
“No. I am not going to drive all the way to Tucson just to sit around while you do your thing at some conference.”
“Oh, but it’s not a conference, it’s a FESTIVAL!” I zoomed in for the kill. “There’ll be funnel cake!”
Two hours later long-suffering hubby and I arrived at the Tucson Festival of Books on the campus of the University of Arizona. To say it is a large event is an understatement. Don’t believe me? http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org
I did have “my thing” to do, but in between carrying stuff, holding stuff and guarding stuff while I waited in line for various restrooms, hubby was more than able to entertain himself among the booths, bookstore tents, and of course the food court. I presented with the author of my two books on Muslim holidays, Asma Mobin-Uddin, signed some books, and gave a drawing workshop for kids. The workshop’s four o’clock time slot had me sure I would be taking a well deserved nap instead, but surprisingly I had a nice turnout of future authors and illustrators. Asma and I had to compete in our time-slot with some dude named Mark Teague, of whom I’m VAGUELY aware, so attendance was not standing room only. There is no accounting for taste. This was the first time Asma and I had met in person, something which seems to boggle everyone except writers and illustrators. Usually, an editor or art director umbrella is needed to protect each from the poo storm that is unleashed when one dares to comment or criticize the other’s writing or art. Fortunately, Asma and I realized we could probably have handled it. Mostly.
” Please, please, everyone, no pushing, single file! There’s enough autographs to go around!”
How cool is this? Huh? Huh? That’s right-my books! In a STORE! Animal Mischief was there too! Piles of them! I had to sit down.
All work and no play makes Laura’s “similar to a four year old’s” fussiness set in, so in between presentations, hubby and I scrambled to amass as much swag as possible. Free buttons-thank you very much. Why, a tote bag-thank you, I’ll take two. Free McDonald’s McFrappy thingy-”honey I’m finished with this one, go sneak back up there and grab me another. Push that kid out of the way, he’s too young for caffeine, it will stunt his growth. Here, wave my ‘author’ badge, and see if it gets you extra whip.” I also managed to glom onto THE must have accessory of the day, among girls anyway, a sun parasol in the highly prized and rare aqua blue. Hubby was not so fortunate in his search for the foam turtle hat that while unisex, seemed more popular with the boys. I,of course, wanted both.
One of the highlights of the day was spotting the various book characters, obviously student volunteers in large, foam suits of dubious cleanliness. We saw a rather pasty Junie B., a slightly linty Hungry Caterpillar, a Wild Thing that almost got stuck in the doorway (and me without my video camera) as well as several fast food characters.
“Can you believe that,” I voiced my outrage to hubby over the crass commercialization aimed at kids while I slurped down my third McFrappilicious as the Hamburglar and Grimace waddled by. I turned just in time to see hubby sprinting after them.
So December has come and gone without a single blog post from yours truly. It is difficult to work up enthusiasm for sitting in a hard chair in front of a mocking, blank computer screen when there are four pounds of fudge and a wheel of brie calling your name in the fridge. Triple crème brie. You see what I’m saying.
Now that the New Year has managed to rudely intrude on my butter-cookie-induced stupor, my mind turns once again to an annual tradition–the great New Year’s self-improvement list. On it I will banish my bad habits, recommit to my art, and no longer choose a re-run of NCIS over practicing my craft. The fact that this list is usually written on a Post-It that disappears during the great New Year’s studio clean is beside the point. This time I am etching it in the stone that is the World Wide Web, because putting things online you don’t want coming back to bite you in the rear is always a good idea.
1. I will make more art, instead of just thinking about making more art.
2. I will stop buying all the books about and supplies for mosaics/murals/ quilts/bread baking and instead actually use them to make art.
3. The whole NCIS thing, you know, instead of the art.
4. I will stop trimming my bangs/cuticles/the shrubs instead of doing art.
5. I will eat more yogurt. Actually, I’ll start eating yogurt…while doing art.
6. I will lose five pounds by not checking the fridge instead of doing art.
7. I will stop playing the passive aggressive “who can hold out the longest not replacing the empty Kleenex box” game with my husband instead of doing art.
8. I will write stories about weird kids like the one I once was and really still am. And I will actually send them out to publishers. With some art.
9. I will figure out what all the shortcut keys on my computer keyboard actually do, write them down and use them while making art.
10. I will try, now and then, to cut myself the same slack I try to give others, and be able to quote chapter and verse of all my artistic accomplishments instead of just my failures.
May 2010 bring us all a little peace, joy, happiness, fresh boxes of Kleenex and lots more art.