Stories and Ceramics

Handbuilt Raku Lantern Boxes
Handbuilt Raku Lantern Boxes

I still play in the mud!

Technically, I play in clay, but I mush and squush, pat and pound, and get lots of dirt under my fingernails in ceramics class. What was great about a rain like the 40 day flood? Shampooing your hair outside. A muddy stream meant tadpoles to inspect. Wet sand on the beach? I still like the feeling of the gritty sand surrounding my sinking feet. Do I sound like a big kid?  Hmmm, maybe that’s why no matter what else I’m doing, I’m thinking about children’s books.

Each of my latest ceramics pieces has elements that can relate to children’s books. “How can you relate pottery to books?” you might ask. Hon, if you talk to me for a few minutes, you’ll find out that I often connect seemingly random things. Is that kid-like, too?

I’ve mentioned this before (My Writing Process (Bunny Hop) Blog Hop)–I find children’s books magical. There’s something lovely about words on a page that bring you to another world, make you laugh, let you to believe the unbelievable, teach you something, allow silliness to surface, relate to your own life, can be read dozens (hundreds) of times and always feel fresh. I strive to create magic in my children’s books.

I made the lantern boxes above with Hubby in mind, inscribing them with our wedding date.  I love the Little Bear books. In the scene below, “The skunks decided to get married. They had a lovely wedding.” What’s timeless about them? The characters are sweet yet wise, proper yet loving. Friendships and family, the underlying themes, are set in a world seemingly simple, but filled with depth of emotion. Little Bear stories expand my heart.

Little Bear books by Else Holmelund, illustrated by
Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
The Wedding
The Wedding.

 

 

 

 

Wheel Thrown Bowl
Wheel Thrown Bowl

I make lots of ceramic bowls! I’m not at the point where I can tell the clay what I want it to be. The clay tells me what it wants to be. Boy, is that clay bossy! And a bossy character is part of what makes the Max and Ruby books funny. My kids and I never got tired of reading Bunny Cakes.  The scene below sums up the whole book.  “Max wanted to help. ‘Dont’ touch anything, Max,’ said Ruby.” You know I have triplets, right? My kids could relate to the sibling rivalry. Guess what theme I explore in some of my books? 

Max and Ruby books by Rosemary Wells
Max and Ruby books by Rosemary Wells
Baking the cake.
Baking the cake.

 

 

 

 

 

Handbuilt Raku plate
Handbuilt Raku Plate

Forests are infinitely fascinating to me. I made the plate above with a forest theme:  wood grain, foliage and a brick path. I even pressed a piece of wood along the edges.  Owl Moon teaches readers about owling, or looking for owls in a forest at night.  Not only does the text make you feel the hush of winter snow, the anticipation of calling the owl and the wonder when you see it, the illustrations beg to be studied and explored (look for other night creatures hiding in the branches).

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr

 

winter forest
Winter Forest.

 

 

 

 

 

Handbuilt Raku plate
Handbuilt Raku Plate

Water is the theme of this handbuilt plate. I glazed the pebble impressions, wavy, watery and slim, rope patterns green and blue. I was thinking of the beach when I made this plate. The Pig in the Pond isn’t set at the beach–its set on a farm–but a hot day, farm animals, Neligan the farmer and a pond are all key elements in this funny picture book. My kids and I laughed every time we read it, especially since Neligan gets naked!

The Pig in the Pond by Martin Wadell
The Pig in the Pond by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jill Barton
"Sploooooosh!"
“Sploooooosh!”

 

 

 

 

 

Handbuilt Raku plate
Handbuilt Raku plate

Picking out the red in this plate and accenting it with green and blue took concentration. Loving Mouse Paint did not. Just because this is a board book and it’s about white mice doesn’t mean it isn’t huge in excellence.  The mice jump in jars of paint, hop around and mix colors to make other colors, wash themselves off in the cat’s bowl, then paint paper instead. But they leave some paper white “because of the cat.”  Genius!

Mouse Paint by
Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Mice as artists.
Mice as artists.

 

 

 

 

Wheel Thrown mugs
Wheel Thrown Mugs.

I also make lots of mugs. What’s better in mugs than tea (or coffee or hot chocolate)? A constant source of my childhood imagination was tea parties, whether it was with my stuffed animals, friends, or underwater at the town pool. Mommy Badger carries a tea set in the scene below. The Frances books were written when picture book word counts were longer. They’re perfect for children ages 4-8 who want to sit and explore a story. Frances sings silly songs, likes to rhyme, is a picky eater, gets jealous of her baby sister and has to learn how to share (she reminds me of me!). Her parents get annoyed and frustrated with her, but Frances learns about the world around her with their guidance and, of course, love.

Frances books by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
Frances books by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
Mommy Badger
Mommy Badger holding a tea set.

 

 

 

 

 

 Hon, do you relate things in your life to books, children’s or  otherwise?  I’d love to compare notes!

Sources:

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak

Max and Ruby by Rosemary Wells

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr

The Pig in the Pond by Martin Waddell and Jill Barton

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Frances books by Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban

The Next Big Thing – Blog Hop

The Next Big Thing Hop: the traveling blog that asks authors whom they consider the NEXT BIG THING, and then has them pass along the questions for those authors to answer in their blogs.

Rules: Answer ten questions about your current Work In Progress on your blog. Tag one to five writers / bloggers and add links to their pages so we can hop along to them next.

Thank you, L.A. Byrne for tagging me! Click on L.A. Byrne to learn more about this amazing  writer for young adults.

What is the working title of your book?

Cora Gets Carried Away

my triplets at age 3 1/2
my triplets at age 3 1/2 before they could read
my plus one at age 3 1/2
my plus one at age 3 1/2 before she could read

Where did the idea come from for the book?

From ages three to five, my children “read” by turning pages and memorizing words.  But they needed mom and dad to read a book to the end.  Most of the time we did.  Sometimes, we were too busy (or tired). Learning to read is huge. I was inspired by the frustration my children felt when they could recognize letters but couldn’t yet put them together to form words or sentences.

What genre does your book fall under?

Picture book.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Since Cora is a kitten, she would be illustrated.  Here are some illustrators who could bring Cora to life:

Stéphane Jorisch, Ned YoungMelinda Beavers, Rebecca Evans

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

(Forgive me, I made it two sentences.)

Although Cora has memorized the first page of her book, she can’t read and she and her doll, Pixie, have to know how who stole the princesses’ crown, but in Cora’s attempt to get her mother, father and brother to read to her she gets carried away—and then is in the way when she acts out scenes from the book.  Who will read to her now?

 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I truly hope Cora will be represented by an agency.  I am actively searching for an editor and agent who are acquiring new authors and open to picture books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The idea for Cora popped in my head when my youngest daughter was three years old.  Now she’s eleven!  In the original version, Cora wasn’t a kitten and she had a different name.  I worked on that version for years, then put it away for awhile.  I was so taken by Little Red Chicken in Interrupting Chicken that I decided to give the main character a make over. I came back to the manuscript a year ago ready to take it in a new direction.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan–because Betty Bunny and Cora the Kitten are both spunky, energetic girls.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein–because despite Little Red Chicken and Cora trying their parents’ patience, they are very loved.

Zoomer by Ned Young–because Zoomer and Cora have vivid imaginations.

Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells—because children see themselves in the realistic but funny sibling relationships.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

When my youngest daughter was Cora’s age, she wanted to read “a hundred” books every night.  She has piles of books by her bed so her room is Cora’s room.

When one of my older daughters was Cora’s age, she believed her invisible friend was real.  She inspired me create Pixie, the doll who is very real to Cora.

I have been driving around in my car for years repeating the rhythmic first two lines of A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon.  I worked hard to create a similar rhythm to the first two lines of my book.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

In Cora Gets Carried Away, the subversive humor means the story is humorous on two levels.

There is a parallel between Cora’s own life and the story-within-the-story, an original fairy tale.

The story-within-the-story’s first and last stanzas anchor the beginning and end of Cora Gets Carried Away, compel the reader to want to find out, like Cora, how who stole the princesses’ crown, and has the potential to become its own book, an add-on to the main story.

are big brother and little sister really getting along?
Are big brother and little sister really getting along?

Tag!  You’re it.  Next up on “The Next Big Thing–Blog Hop”:

Leslie Zampetti, writer of Middle Grade fantasy

Kim Beck, writer of Young Adult dystopia