Cats and House Spirits – The September Night Garden Challenge

Last spring, the lovely people at The Night Garden approached me to be the guest artist for their Inspiration Challenge. I write a bit more about the website and their guest artist at the time (musician Jason Webley) here.

The Night Garden’s Inspiration Series is an opportunity for creative folks to get inspired by a particular artist’s work and raise money for the Great Lakes Bengal Rescue (GLBR) in the process.

March-April Guest Artist  – Jason Webley

May-June Guest Artist – Writer/Artist Christopher Lincoln

September-October Guests Artists – Valya Dudycz Lupescu and Madline Carol Matz

That’s right! Madeline and I have collaborated to inspire you over at The Night Garden. In fact, it’s such an inspirational challenge that working on it inspired us to create an entire comic around the characters featured in Madeline’s artwork!  (More on that in the next post.)

I’d ask that you take a look at the challenge and create an artistic response to it. You have until Halloween (October 31) to submit your response or make a donation. From the site:

Persons donating to Great Lakes Bengal Rescue between September 1st and October 31st will be entered into a random prize draw for a signed print of Madeline’s artwork above. Valya and Madeline will (consult with their respective house spirits and) also select one art contributor to have a cameo in the comic, drawn into at least one panel of the story.

The subject of our challenge is house spirits, those little guardians who traditionally protect our homes (sometimes with a little mischief thrown in). We hope that you create your art with house spirits in mind. Some things to think about:

What might your house spirit look like? What does he or she like to eat/drink? Where do they reside in a home?What’s their favorite music? What would might they like you to knit for them? Can you photograph their favorite dark corner? Do they get along with your pets?

You can also think about the house spirits of other homes, fictional or historical:

Does the TARDIS have a house spirit (perhaps a cheeky brownie)?

What does the house spirit of the White House look like? What’s their spin on past and present administrations?

What about retelling the events of Wuthering Heights from the perspective of the house spirit living there? Or Gone with the Wind? Or Frankenstein? (Halloween is coming after all.)

How about your favorite authors’ or artists’ homes? Is there a kobold in Neil Gaiman’s attic? Does the Cloud Club (where Amanda Palmer and other artists live) have a house spirit (or a hippy-esque house spirit commune)? Does Felicia Day’s perky little brownie follow her around from trailer to trailer? How does Kyle & Trillian’s Roswell feel about their house spirit? Who is the guardian on Jason Webley’s houseboat? Do the Evelyn Evelyn sisters have conjoined house spirits?

The responses can be as diverse as the inspiration: photos, sketches, flash fiction pieces, recipes, poppets, knitting, a song, a sonnet, a special perfume oil, a candle, a woodcarving or clay sculpture, jewelry, or a hat. So many options!

We have some of our own ideas to share! You can follow the story of our house spirit (a domovyk named Yaroslav) on our kickstarter page. Sticks and Bones, Issue 1: Home is Where the Hearth is.

We cannot wait to see/read/hear/smell/wear/taste your house spirit-inspired art and help Great Lakes Bengal Rescue !

Poppet plays Miss Lupescu & other collaborations

The lovely and talented Lisa Snellings makes Poppets. Well, it’s probably more accurate to say that Lisa is astute and intuitive enough to have tapped into the magical world of Poppets, and she shares them with the rest of the world. 😉

I love Poppets. Many people do. There are photos of Poppets all around the world in unexpected places. Here’s one of mine at the door to the fairy tree in our backyard.

If you would like a glimpse into the mind and process of this remarkable artist, Lisa’s blog is here. You can also purchase her poppets here, and that brings me to the point of this quick little entry.

Poppets love books. Lisa has created Poppets playing various fictional characters and reading their favorites. Most recently, Lisa created a Miss Lupescu Poppet (from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book).

I love her. (How could I not?)

As if you needed another reason to invite this Poppet into your home, Lisa is donating 20% of the sales of the Miss Lupescu Poppet (and only 4 remain) to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (or CBDLF). If Miss Lupescu is not your favorite, there are many other fanciful creatures on her etsy site:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/Strangestudios

Poppet Plays Miss Lupescu - The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

I love it when artists inspire one another and collaborate to find new ways to introduce wonder into the world.

Speaking of collaboration, the Night Garden has its newest Inspiration Challenge with Christopher Lincoln (author of Billy Bones). Visit the Night Garden site, see his sketch, and participate to support Great Lakes Bengal Rescue.

Mr. Lincoln will give away the original doodle to the person whose donation puts them over the $250 mark by midnight, June 30th. Entries will be accepted May 1, 2011 through June 30, 2011.

My oldest already loved Billy Bones, but Mr. Lincoln became one of the kids’ favorite writers when he met us for a coffee in Minneapolis. They had a lovely chat and he signed her book. She was SO excited!  (Buy a copy of his marvelous books, and share them with kids of all ages!)

One last collaboration tidbit, if you haven’t head of the Nighty Night album by 8 in 8 (a collaboration by Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds, and Damian Kulash of OK Go), read more about their creative process of working together at Mad Oak Studios to create 6 songs in 12 hours at the www.eightineight.com website. You can also listen and buy a digital copy of the album at http://music.amandapalmer.net/album/nighty-night

My kids love several of the songs and have been sing The Problem with Saints (the Joan of Arc song) for the last two weeks. This has also resulted into the acquisition of new interesting vocabulary words for my 3, 5, and 7-year-olds: bisected, vivisect, and bifurcated. (Have I mentioned how much the kids’ teacher love me?)

Inspired by the album and encouraged by Amanda and Neil, their fans created videos of the songs that can also be viewed on the site.

I leave you with one of my favorites:

Book reviews & audience in the Internet Age

Book reviews are the published writer’s reality show. Many of us cannot help ourselves. We peruse them to get a glimpse of our beloved audience, for better or for worse.

(Side note: A quick search on the history of book reviews came up with nothing! I cannot help but wonder when the first reviews were published in periodicals. Anyone?)

Remember, much of a writer’s time is spent alone in a room with a notebook or laptop, maybe in a cafe or library. Even when surrounded by people or pets, we’re often in our own worlds. By the time a book is published, we are hungry for ways to eavesdrop on the reader as she reads our words and enters our worlds.

Book reviews give us a window. Of course there are book signings, readings, and book clubs visits–all wonderful way of making contact. But for every one town we visit, there are hundreds we cannot. Historically, how did writers reach loyal readers and gain new ones? Book reviews.

Until the arrival of the internet. Suddenly writers (and artists, musicians, etc.) had new ways to connect with their audience and with each other. It started with message boards and blogs,  then myspace, facebook, and twitter. Ah, twitter.

I know that I’ve written about this before. Sure, there’s a lot of mundane filler on twitter, but there are also gems. For me, it’s nice to know that at 2am I can dip into twitter and connect with others also working during the witching hours, a patchwork picture of the creative process: Felicia Day peruses casting submissions for The Guild, Neil Gaiman works on his Monkey book, Leonard Nimoy shares an old photograph from his early days on film, Molly Robison writes a Ouija-inspired ghost song, Ellen Kushner listens to the final mix of her radio play The Witches of Lublin, Amanda Palmer composes an analysis of Rebecca Black and music today, Kabriel designs a new double-breasted vest, Kyle Cassidy shares his beautiful portrait of Michael Zulli. Along the way they talk to fans and to each other.

But back to book reviews. They carry weight. Depending on where they appear, they carry different types of weight. A New York Times book review is not the same as one posted on a personal blog. However both are online, are collected by google, reach people around the world, and can influence readers.

One twitter friend who reads The Silence of Trees sends out a tweet about how much she loved it. Perhaps ten of her friends go out and buy a copy on Amazon (or on kindle for $.99) Five of them love it and tweet about it, or post it on facebook, and so on it goes. The readership grows. It’s remarkable really. Word of mouth can become viral on the internet.

Speaking of viral and reviews, doubtless some of you have heard about the author who publicly trashed a book review and damaged her reputation (if not, here you go.) She broke the rule, you never respond to book reviews except to say, “Thank you.”

I don’t always share my book reviews, but I do read all that I can get my hands on (thank you, Google Alerts). I’m sure this will change in time. Published writer friends have told me that I will eventually stop reading the reviews. Perhaps.

This book review written by Kristen Thiel on The Nervous Breakdown made me happy:

“The Silence of Trees is a modern American narrative steeped in fairy tale. Though some scenes are rather laborious, most provide excellent vehicles for conveying Ukranian folklore and religion, the surrealism of war and immigration, and a woman sharing her story with both bluntness and wonder, the mixed result of finding her own voice after decades of restrained living.

Few book reviews start with a foot rub but, really, more should. In one of the most thrilling scenes in Valya Dudycz Lupescu’s first novel—exciting for its unabashed passion and feminism, and most important for the new story it promises to start even thirty pages from the book’s end…”    Read the rest here.

Tastes vary in style, story, genre. I understand that everyone will not like everything I write. I understand that people will take issue with a story or poem or book or a character for any of a hundred reasons. Some will love it. Some will just like it. Some will not. I guess that’s why they tell you not to read the reviews. So that you don’t get paralyzed as a writer.

As writers, we can read the reviews; we can share them (if we want); and we can bite our tongues and keep writing.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to write a review for The Silence of Trees on their blog or on Amazon or Goodreads. For new writers, you are our PR teams.

And thank you, Kristen Thiel. You made my Thursday morning.