RAMBLING BLOG TOUR schedule

Welcome to the following fellow bloggers to the Let's Go Rambling Blog Tour, June 8th - June 22.  Visit their blogs for insights, opinions and reviews of ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING, or interviews with author Kelly Bennett or myself.

Comment about the book in their blogs and be entered in our prize giveaway (original book illustration and more!) described in my May 23rd blog... here.

June 8   http://authorbystate.blogspot.com

June 8   http://tinyurl.com/7qx3ej9 - Kim Norman

June 8   http://www.blog.andibutler.com

June 8   http://www.picturebookdepot.com

June 8   http://www.lindseylane.net/blog

June 8   http://www.susankayequinn.com

June 9   http://www.debbiegonzales.com

June 10 http://www.vonnacarter.com

June 12 http://www.thelittledeb.blogspot.com

June 13 http://tinyurl.com/6lp78du - Cindy Faughnan

June 14 http://www.thewritersplot.com

June 14 http://smithwright.blogspot.com

June 14 http://www.readerkidz.com

June 14 http://www.debbiegonzales.com

June 15 http://www.pamzollman.com

June 17 http://www.writingonthesidewalk.wordpress.com

June 19 http://www.cheriecolyer.blogspot.com

June 20 http://KidsEbookBestsellers.com

June 22 http://www.moreart4all.wordpress.com

My heartfelt thanks to you all!  Let's go rambling!!!!

 

 

Let's Go RAMBLING Blog Tour, June 8 - June 22

RamblingButton2At long last, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING, the picture book I illustrated, Kelly Bennett authored, and Bright Sky Press just released is going blog-hopping.  Maybe I should say blog-Rambling!

 From June 8th until June 22, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING will make guest appearances on several blogs in the form of book reviews, interviews with the author or illustrator, or  spotlight mentions.  Anyone who participates in the blog tour, or comments on a guest blog post, comments/friends the author or I on facebook,  tweets about  our book with the hashtag #letsgorambling, or attends and participates in our Facebook event--One Day I Went Rambling Virtual Book Launch on June 8th will be eligible to win cool prizes. 

 What cool prizes you ask?  Well,  ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING is a story about an adventurous scavenger boy, Zane, whose wild imagination allows him to see magic in the ordinary. He has a sidekick....a chameleon, who changes color to the kid that’s having the most imaginative thought... 

 With that in mind, prizes are as follows:

 1st PRIZE- This signed original illustration of the chameleon from the book’s dedication page. Huey

2nd PRIZE- An autographed copy of the book, and this zany color-changing Chameleon!!

3rd & 4th PRIZES..ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING,  signed by the author and me!

If you’ve come across this blog and wish to participate in the tour,  please fill out the registration form in the clickable link at the top left of this page.  I will send you a pdf of the book, and will post a running list of blog participants here when the tour begins.  Once again, anyone who posts a blog *3, comments on a blog *1 or posts a facebook mention *1 (link the author's or my page to your mention) or tweets *1 (hashtag #letsgorambling), or buys the book *3(send proof of purchase to murfslawblues@gmail.com) are eligible entrants.  The numbers reflect how many times your name is in the hat. The prize drawing will take place on June 23rd. Winners will be posted and notified.

You can start by pre-tour commenting here! It'll count. Why not share a few lines from when you went Rambling, and found something that turned out to be extraordinary....

Let’s Go Rambling!!! 

Gratefully Yours,

Terri Murphy

ps. If we aren't yet, you can friend me on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/terrimurphyart 

Terri Murphy www.terrimurphyart.com

Kelly Bennett, author  wwww.kellybennett.com

Bright Sky Press www.brightskypress.com

 

Coffee with author KELLY BENNETT

Author Kelly Bennett joined me for some cyber coffee-klatching about her influences, writing career and our upcoming picture book, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING...

Terri_murphy
(Kelly and I in Texas with our first picture book together, "Dance, Y'all Dance.")

Congratulations on having your 11th picture book published, Kelly.  Did you always know you were going to be a picture book author?

I loved reading, loved writing, but never imagined I’d be a writer. As a kid, I ran through the usual list of what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow ups: doctor, stewardess, explorer, volleyball player, mom. It wasn’t until I became a mom, and began reading so many marvelous, fun picture books to my children, Max and Alexis, that I began imagining: “Maybe, just maybe I could be a writer, too!”

What book most influenced you as a child?

Hands down, The Tall Book of Make Believe compiled by Jane Werner, it’s a mix of poems and short stories. Number 2 is the Guinness Book of World Records.  Truth is I didn’t own many books and my school didn’t have a library. Instead, the Book-Mobile came to the school every Wednesday. 

How does your typical working day unfold?

I find I am more creative and happier, and my writing is fresher, if  I vary my schedule. So my “typical working day” depends on what I’m writing and where I am in the process. If  I’m revising, I sit myself down every day, no matter what, and work. But for no more than an hour at a time. (I even set a timer). At the end of an hour, I’ll get up, putter, do something else. Often I’ll return to revisions for another hour stretch and maybe another after that. I find, if  I don’t get up and move around, I’ll drift into copy editing rather than revising.

If  I have a new picture book idea, my writing day begins at bedtime. I pursue new ideas by spending a week of bedtimes—only 10 minutes a night--listing and free thinking about that idea. After a week, I plop myself down and write through a complete draft, no breaks, no interruptions, no expectations that what I’m writing will be good.

ZaneHow did you get the idea for writing ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING? 

It was all because of that wonderful, haunting poem! A poem by Valine Hobbs called One Day When We Went Walking. I found it when I was little—maybe 5 or 7, in—surprise, surprise!-my all-time favorite book: The Tall Book of Make Believe compiled by Jane Werner.

I read and reread that poem so many times, I still have it memorized. It begins like this:

One day when we went walking,

 I found a dragon's tooth,

A dreadful dragon's tooth....

"A locust thorn," said Ruth

I felt as though that poem was about me.  I used to find things too, and imagine them to be magical, wonderful, exciting other things. But, but, but…the ending of the poem always bugged me. The last stanza reads:

Next time that I go walking-

Unless I meet an elf,

A funny, friendly elf-

I'm going by myself!

I loved the ending because the person in the poem doesn’t give in, but instead decides to keep walking and finding things. At the same time it bothered me because only way the main character thought she could continue to play this imaginative finding game was to go alone—or to go with an elf (although who wouldn’t love to meet an elf?)

Do you have pictures in your head when you write stories, and how different are they from the eventual book?

Scenes run through my head in Technicolor, hi-definition 3-D movies. So more than writing, I transcribe what I see. When revising picture books, after I am satisfied with the story, I create a dummy-book of the text, but folding paper into a book and cut & pasting the text in place. Flipping through the pages as though it were a book.

 Which children's book authors, now or historically, would you like to have dinner with?

So many! I am fascinated by the writing process and love interacting with writers and illustrators. Here’s my short list: (And if any of you brilliant folks are reading—I’m buying!)

Maurice Sendak

Elaine Konigsberg

Lois Lowry

Margaret Wise Brown

Robert McCloskey

Ludwig Bemelmans

Bob Shea

Tammy Sauer

What’s next?  Any new projects we should know about?

Beware: Coming next spring from Candlewick Press is Vampire Baby!  

 And finally, if you were ice cream, what flavor would you be? 

Rocky Road, cause I’m irresistible and chocolate a little nuts with a gooey middle and I’m better in small doses—too much too fast and I’ll give you a headache.

 Perfect!  Thanks for spending time with us this morning, Kelly.

Thank you for spotlighting me and my work, Terri.

Terri_murphy-rambling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“One Day I Went Rambling” will be released next month and is available for pre-order at http://www.brightskypress.com/infostore/ca.cart.asp?sAction=DisplayDetails&pid=219&id=227

 

 

 


 




 


 

 

BOLOGNAFIERE 2012

One way I get to travel is when I follow my artwork.  So far it’s lead me to New York and Texas.  Now I’ve just shipped off 5 themed illustrations for consideration to Bolognafiere 2012, held in Bologna, Italy.  It’s the “Sundance” for children’s illustrators.  Last year, no one from the United States was chosen.  But if these make the cut, I’ll go to Italy.  I’ll go! Terri Murphy

Those with generous overflowing imaginations and heart, can you picture them there?

Thanks!

Terri

http://www.terrimurphyart.com

Bees and Exploding Trees

PopcornLadybug

It’s been a sweltering summer of mishaps...with no end in sight.  In July alone we’ve had record breaking heat and rain, a tornado touch down, a nearby tree explode by lightning, a neighbor who discovered 80 beehives in the walls of her house, power outages, a flood...and I’m waiting on the locusts and frogs...

Above is a full page illustration I created for this month’s Ladybug issue.  The art director  wanted animals to convey “hot” in this poem so I chose these arctic looneys vacationing in the tropics.  Here’s a close-up detail on the fox...

Fox1

Still wringing out from the flood, but the air conditioning is working and so am I, on character sketches and a layout design for a new picture book due out in March 2012. It’s by the same author and publisher of my last  book, Dance Y’all Dance...Kelly Bennett and Bright  Sky Press.  

I love the beginning stages of a picture book. It’s like making a movie!  I’ve got the screenplay and am in the middle of a casting call, sketching forth all sorts of characters to bring the author’s words to life.  Some don’t make the cut. Others do, but have to be tweaked...and still others are fully formed the moment they hit the page.  These character kids, fourteen of them,  will live with me, shaking me in twilight dreams, directing me as much as I direct them when I consider expressions and body language, pacing, camera angles, mood and lighting, and visual story arc.

I mentioned designing a mural in the last blog.  If you have a facebook page and want to see the results, here is a link to the album.   Friend me, if we aren’t  friends already...  :o) 

mural album

 

 

 
 

 

..CHANGE.....THE WORLD

Mural

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”...that is the theme for a mural I am honored to be designing for Park Manor School in Chicago.  It will be painted in one day, by volunteers who may or may not have artistic skills, on June 11th.  Though I will the there to direct and assist...and paint...it will also be a good exercise in letting go, and trusting, and knowing.  A big thanks to my artistic friends in SCBWI for their excellent comments and critique as this drawing progressed.

Every day there is magic, there for the taking.

~Terri

What else I’m working on:  a magazine illustration, my book dummy, an Illustrator Intensive assignment and a summer college art camp for kids workshop.

 

PAjaMa pOLka !!

Terri-Murphy-art-pajama-pol

Time to dance!! Again!   Spider Magazine’s March 2011 issue features my illustration with Eileen Spinelli’s poem “Pajama Polka.” A delightful weave of imagination that shows the effect “of March wind’s sudden music.” Nightclothes fly with dayclothes  for an eleven city block parade!

I played with perspective on this one, wanting to show a close-up pajama couple as well as suggest a parade and an audience.  I played with texture too.  Before I started painting, I laid a brushy undercoat with light molding paste.  You can see better evidence of it here:

Pajama-polka1

Currently working on another magazine piece for LadyBug Magazine, their July 2011 issue.  Can’t divulge anything yet, except that it’ll be hot hot hot.  Nice project for the cabin fever blues...

 Also working on a website update... Coming soon.

 ;o)

Terri Murphy

http://terrimurphyart.com

 

 

 

 

 

COLLABORATION...

BearBoy1

Creating art...it's a solitary endeavor.   It is a leap of faith, that we connect something true in us to something true in others. My friend Chris and I have been talking about collaboration for a while.  We had our first taste this weekend.  

Drawing from imagination and dreams, our session spanned seven hours within two days, producing several paintings.  Fueled  with caffeine and occasional carbs, a real sense of play transpired as we experimented and learned from each other.  We talked about technique, color theory and touching the archetype in dreams...interspersed with music and Chris’s theory of heartbreak economics 101.  

ChrisNme

A beautiful thing, painting alone...and a different beauty, painting together.

Creating toward a child’s initial exposure to universal language...priceless.

 

 

 

GHOSTS and GHOULS and GOBLINS, oh my!

Children's book illustrator Terri Murphy has Halloween Fever and it shows, in the Oct 2010 issue of Spider Magazine for Children

Read More

STELLLAAAAA !

StellaBlog1
 

    It was the mood.  An ornery one.  And so... I wrote a picture book story. Now the healthy thing might have been to confront the source of my angst but nope...  I had fuel, I wanted fire...I lit a match. 

    It’s a story of Stella, a blackwidow spider...dangerous, diabolical, and darned cute!  Writing her misadventures into a picture book is a fine balance.  If the black humor carries too much darkness the reader builds no empathy for the main character; doesn’t invest in the outcome.  Not enough darkness, and there’s no tension to pull the reader in.

    So it is in the creation of Stella.  Drawing a cute spider was not the challenge.  Drawing “Stella” was.  She needed to have just the right blend of  threat, vulnerability, whackiness and charm in order to be invited into a reader’s acceptance.  She is to be feared and loved simultaneously.  The first attempts at Stella in clay and sketches were “too cute.” 

StellaClay
StellaDraw

    Once I was satisfied with the body and legs, her face was a matter of  sizing and placement of  features to create the right look and expression.  I kept drawing until she made me laugh and I fell in love.  And as with all my characters, I see a bit of me in her, a bit of you.  Or should I say, a bite of you.  Chomp!~

StellaClose 

Invite her in. Could you?  Would you?


 

Night Lights....

MURPHYTreeOfLife

    “Tree of Life” is a popular motif in many cultures...Mexican, Hebrew, African, Celtic.  Last weekend,  our SCBWI Illinois Illustrators Network held a benefit auction for the Art Creation Foundation for Children, a children’s charity in Haiti.  This organization provides education, meals and medical care for impoverished children while teaching them the native arts so that can become self sustaining adults.  Eighteen illustrators donated their version of “Tree of Life” for silent auction at Ridge Art in Oak Park, Illinois.  All pieces were sold, and we were honored to provide a sizable donation to ACFFC.  Here is our forest of trees: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13397053@N02/


Above is my Tree of Life titled “Night Lights.”  From the beginning I knew I wanted to convey a magical night scene with the moon, birds and mythical  creatures.  Much of this illustration was carefully planned...the perspective, the play of light and shadow, the simplicity of the leafing.  Other parts happened spontaneously during the painting of it, the top branches releasing hearts that find other hearts and become butterflies, the creatures that wear camouflaged hearts. In this painting I hope you climb the branches, search for the story, find magic.

You can see a larger version of  “Night Lights” here: http://pic90.picturetrail.com/VOL2203/2532773/5363393/387378690.jpg


Working on:  a Halloween spread for Spider Magazine

       facilitating an artists’ retreat in June, in Texas

************


In Everything

Do you hear the night birds sing?

"Believe," they sing, "in everything."

In the thick as well as thin 

Can you feel the dawn begin?

The sweet, together with the sour

the idling boredom of the hour

In a quagmire on our knees

or flying past the midnight trees

In your eyes, reflecting sparks

of buried treasure in the dark

Yes, dear heart, in everything

the thorny branch, the silken wing

Then by some untimely clock

Wind lifts one, and then the flock, 

Kaleidoscope jewels, circle and fly

Rainbow dancers across the sky

ART KIDS

GirlTone

I love connecting with children.

For the past year and a half I’ve been holding art workshops for kids at area libraries...sometimes a single session and sometimes a series of workshops.  Each workshop focuses on either a  theme, a technique, or an artist.  I try to make work environments creatively stimulating, with work stations in the round, selected music in the background and an open casual format. And right when we think it can’t get any better, I break out the Oreos!

Illokids2
In the photo above, the theme was Op Art Portraits and the artist presented was Victor Vasarely.  We focused on hot and cold colors and how to make colors pop, or recede if you so choose, just by their relation to each other.  Each workshop lasts 90 minutes. The beginning is a short power point presentation introducing the artist or technique, and a step-by-step demonstration of the project. 

Blog1
Above is a power point presentation on a workshop called Print Station.  Kids drew an image, transferred it  to a styrofoam tray, and embossed it with a pencil or wooden dowel.  They applied black or white paint with a roller and pressed the styrofoam to paper to form their printed image.

Artkids3
 Here are the Young Artists Workshops I’m currently facilitating...and I’m always adding!

Under the Sea Batik

Aboriginal Dream Painting

Woodcuts

Op Art Portraits

Print Station

Mexican Sun,  Embossed Foil Art

Creating Mood with Sculpture

The Peace Quilt

Mondrian Animals

Street Scene Collage

Up-Close Portraits (art of Chuck Close)

Currently working on: writing a Valentines Day picture book story

       a drawing a day (a New Year's resolution)  

Boogie Villa!

BoogieVillaBlog
Time to close out the year with yet another dance and music theme! The above is cover art for a children’s music cd “At the Boogie Villa”  by Ginny Halstead and Michelle Phelps aka Found a Penny.   Two California singer/songwriter musicians who found me on the web, attracted to my color palette and quirky angles. They had a wonderful design sense themselves and this project was truly a collaboration.  Ginny sent me demos of songs to get a sense of their musical style and to kick-start my imagination. With original compositions and crystal clear voices that could compete on any stage, Ginny and Michelle offer up catchy songs that kids will love and adults won’t tire of. It’s not pablum!  I can’t wait to hear the final cd.

DanceBlog

I had a book launch party for the release of the picture book Dance Y’all Dance. A little nervous...the remote mike kept throwing me off.  Had some olde timey country dance music playing...the soundtrack from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou?.  Prizes for any spontaneous dancing (glass boot mugs filled with M&Ms) were offered and we had some takers!  A PowerPoint presentation included a Where’s-Waldo-type search of Texas symbols I planted in the book with more prizes for that.  

I talked about inspiration, about how much of the time an artist’s head is in the clouds, searching, while the deadline looms nearer, and the design planning, character fleshing and topical research that goes on before pencil hits paper. There was a little Cinderella story segue  about me riding off with cowboy Russell Crowe as he showed me the ropes in an old Old West Dance Hall. What?  You just go with the flow when then muse hits! One of the best compliments I got was from a man who said “I never realized it before... you’ve built a whole story in pictures but you  start out with just words.” 

Reminds me of a favorite quote by the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ...  See with your ears and hear with your eyes.  ~Ken Kesey

Working on: promotional material for a new venture

             experimenting with a new art technique!

 

 

HaPPy biRtH daY, Dance Y'all Dance

Dance Y'all Dance is born!  The picture book officially hits the shelves today, November 1, 2009.  It was quite a labor and delivery, fun actually...now how many women can say that!  Written by Kelly Bennett and published by Bright Sky Press (see link below), it's a story of one night at a country dance hall where family and friends pack away their worries and dance into the night.  The story is loaded with characters young and old--Grandpappy Skittle who plays musical "spoons" on stage, the mischievious Harlin and Beau taunting girls, and Buck the Dog who tries its best to get into the mix.

MomAndDad 

Toward the end, the focus switches to Sallie and Jem who just got married, engaged in dance.  I knew I wanted to convey a quiet moment between these two, oblivious to the gaiety of their surroundings, so I used an old photograph as inspiration. Changing costumes and faces, I concentrated on that kiss to the cheek and the sparkle in her eye.  It's one of my favorite illustrations in the book...one I hope will resonate with viewers.

As with the illustration of the newlyweds, I hope readers see something of themselves in the book--their own family celebrations through music and dance--and how, often, we are more alike than different.

Family, after all, can be seen in a tree-or-forest kind of way.  Dance Y’all, Dance!

*****

Link: http://www.brightskypress.com/infostore/ca.cart.asp?sAction=DisplayDetails&pid=155&id=227</a>

Currently working on:  Music and dance, again!  Art for a children’s cd called “Boogie Villa.”

dance STEP-by-STEP

Here’s sneak peek into the making of Dance Y’all Dance, a picture book written by Kelly Bennett that I illustrated and is being released this November (Bright Sky Press).  It was the most fun project I’ve ever worked on.  The story is set in the not too distant past when families, farm hands and cowboys & gals would get together on weekends at the local honky tonk.  I did some research into clothing styles, period furniture, Texas symbols and olde timey dance halls, then chose to keep the colors vivid and saturated to give the book a contemporary look.

Once I had the scene sketched, I redrew it on Strathmore 10-ply paper with a Berol Prismacolor pencil...then laid a wash of ultramarine & yellow ochre. With a wet q-tip or small brush, I began to pick out highlights.

Blog4

Later, using the new tones as a guide, I start to lay in color with gouache, working from dark to light. What interests me now is the design of shadows, losing and finding edges and letting a little of the wash show through as line.  I make an effort to NOT have perfectly symmetrical faces as I believe it lends to more effective expressions. 

Blog5

I continue building layers of paint to emphasize form, adding texture, patterns, detail and highlights.  Finally scanning into photoshop, I clean and fine tune the piece.

Blog6

So there you have it.  I love playing with color.  I love visiting my works-in-progress (aka “children”) every morning.  I love this job!

Working on:  another country-themed book offering, but that’s all I’m gonna say right now!  In the meantime, here is an interview I did on the author’s website, if’n you’re interested: http://www.kellybennett.com/books/danceyall.html

UnsolveD MysterY

The lovely thing about mystery is that unsolved ones keep wandering around in your brain.

  

In 2006, I received my first piece of fan mail...from a man who saw an illustration of mine at a New York Children's Book conference gallery.  He wrote me, asking about purchase of a print, saying that piece had a tremendous effect on him, for reasons he may disclose to me one day. Here is part of the painting, from a story I was writing.

Becka_sky-copy

I sent him the print, along with what inspired me during the painting of it.  He never received it, so I sent another.  That one arrived fine.

He went on to tell me that he owned a kayak shop in  New Jersey, and was about to embark on a 14 day trip paddling the waters around Greece.  That's the last I ever heard from him. I often picture him in paddling the crystal blue Aegean Sea, tanned and laughing, wet with golden glints of ocean spray. And I wonder what it was that he connected with so strongly in the art of a little girl looking wistfully to the sky.  I also wonder who got the lost package of art and inspiration.  And if that had a synchronicity in their life.

Ultimately, I like not knowing...wondering and wandering are just fine with me.

working on: relaxing!  Just finished illustrating Dance Y'all Dance, a picture book due out in Fall '09.  Off to Florida Keys to see the sis, play in the ocean....

BIG bear's BIRTHday

Ladybug1

Just received my advanced issue of LadyBug Magazine, May/June ‘09, wherein I have a spread of illustrations for a story, “Big Bear and Skinny Rabbit” by Kathleen Stevens.  An amusing tale about a birthday gift Rabbit gives Bear--a hammock.  Bear is thrilled and grateful, then proceeds to figure out more and better ways to enhance the hammock experience. Rabbit happily obliges again,
Ladybug2

and again,
Ladybug3
and again...
Ladybug4

until it finally dawns on Bear that one thing is still missing....

On the writing side of things, I just won 2nd Place in a writing contest for a short story--“Remembering Basha” ...a coming-of-age tale about a Polish girl and her relationship to her doll.  My mom went through her albums and coincidentally found a photo of said doll and Polish girl:

Basha

You can read more about the contest, and find “Remembering Basha” in a sidebar link here: http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=286926&src=1

Currently working on: paintings for “Dance Y’all Dance” picturebook wherein everyone dances, go figure!

Groundhog Day and Cowboys

      Remember the movie with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell where each day repeats the exact events from the day before? Groundhog Day. That’s how my illustrating life has been the past month or so.  Squeezed by a tight deadline, I basically painted non-stop for 30+ days to finish a 24-page picture book.  Paint, sleep, paint, sleep...at the end I was wild eyed and mumbling, my fingernails yellowed and grown to enormous lengths.  Ironically, Groundhog’s day fell somewhere in there.  The only shadows I saw were my own, slogging off to bed at 3 a.m.   
      Here’s a character from that picture book about a dog and his boy.  Visual inspiration courtesy of a friends’ pup...the puppy they got after they said they would never get another dog.  The pup had different ideas...
PuppyLookCover-copy
      Started layouts for a picture book called Dance Y’all Dance, a lighthearted story about a raucous family-friendly Texas dance hall in the 1930’s, Kelly Bennett-author, Bright Sky Press-publisher.  Goin’ through my pics and imagination for raucous, family-friendly  dancin’ cowboys and cowgirls....be careful, I might just put a stetson on you!  Here’s the cover, which had to be done prior to the innards (I’m already talkin’ cowboy!), for promo purposes...   Yeehaw!DanceCoverBlog

currently drawing:  Dance Y’all Dance layouts
currently writing:  2 short stories for inclusion in a themed anthology

o christmas tree

XmasTree

I still have my Christmas tree up.  Not laziness on my part...all my other decorations are put away for another year.  But this year's Christmas tree, still green and holding its needles, is one I've become very attached to.  It's the kind I remember from my childhood, a single balsam.  This spindly variety has nearly disappeared from the lots nowadays, in favor of the uniformly shaped double balsam and the "more is better" theory.
    When I was a child, on the day before Christmas Eve my father would find the bargain tree, the one picked over, the sorriest tree on the lot. Then full of Christmas spirits, he'd haul the balding, misshapen evergreen on to a Chicago city bus where it invariably became a group effort to get him and the tree on and off the bus.  Transformed in ornaments and tinsel finery, we'd pay homage to Christmas with my brothers and sisters singing "Dzisiaj w Betlejem,"  hands folded in reverence.

With my own family, we shop for the tree on my son's birthday, have candy cane silk chocolate pie at Bakers Square, then head back home to sing "o christmas tree" to the tree. Not quite an instant replay of my youth, it is our tradition...part old, part new.

The tree and me, we have an unspoken bargain.  I'll keep feeding it,  and it'll shine its best for me...even long after it's gone.

currently working  on: illustrating 2 picture books. 
One for Hooked on Phonics, and
“Dance Y’all, Dance” Bright Sky Press, Fall 2009