Walking the trail (because it’s cheaper than paying a therapist)

As my husband so intelligently pointed out to me, he’d rather take me for
a walk on the trail than foot the bill for therapy. So here’s today’s
“Go get the stink blown off you” pictures from the trail.




And then this one, which isn’t a joke.
I’m thinking the businesses at the End were constantly having
to answer the question about where the trail went from there.
So sorry, businesses at the End.


Today’s bike ride: I so needed this

We attempted another trail ride today since the last time out the trail was a little mushy, and because…SUNSHINE! Not to mention the melancholic week I’m having.

This time we started our ride from West Newton, PA, and went a little over 8½ miles before we turned around. The temperature made it to around 74° and we got to soak in even more beautiful blue skies.

Here are a few of the pictures I took including the inevitable action shot.

Bike trail outside West Newton

Blue skies on the trail

Bike trail action shot

(Note that the odometer is reading 9.8 mph.)

Youghiogheny River from the trail

The Youghiogheny River as seen from our bench
about six miles southeast of West Newton,
across the river from Smithton.

Our first bike ride of the year

It’s really (really) difficult to stay inside and watch a beautiful day go to waste, so we braved the tiny bit of a chill and headed for the woods. This time we started in Connellsville (this section on the Great Allegheny Passage is considered part of the Yough River Trail) and headed southeast toward Camp Carmel with the intention of turning around there. In some places the trail was a bit mushy though, so we ended up turning around just a bit before. That was fine because we still had plenty of time to enjoy the gorgeous day!





So late with this here, but HEY! I HAVE AN AGENT!!!


It’s true. I pinky swear.

We had Tricia Lawrence from Erin Murphy Literary Agency on our faculty at a somewhat recent Western Pennsylvania regional SCBWI conference, and the two of us seemed to hit it off pretty well. But that was November of 2014, and it had been months since I had submitted a picture book dummy to her. And, honestly, I had assumed it wasn’t going to happen. Because you know how the industry goes: no reply, no interest.

Now I know that might not always be the case. The Monday after our regional conference last November (2015) I got an unexpected email from Trish. We were already friends on Facebook and followed each other on Twitter, so a friendly email wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary. But this didn’t turn out to be just any friendly email. She wanted to know if I had been working on anything since I had last submitted. I told her as a matter of fact I had, and sent her a link to my latest manuscript.

The next day was a tough one. I woke up around 3 am (you know, ever the insomnia zombie) and had a rough day at work, starting earlier and working longer than expected. By the time I got home I was exhausted and cranky and starving. By chance I checked email on my phone while my husband cooked dinner, and there it was: the reply that made the rest of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day melt into the sewer grate. Trish said we needed to talk. Maybe next week? Monday? 4:00?

When the phone rang the next Monday at 3:59, I answered saying something along the lines of, “You’re right on time.” We jumped headfirst into what seemed like the middle of a conversation we had left off maybe the week before. And then we talked for over an hour. Because, you know, when you find someone that fits, that sort of thing is pretty easy to do.

EMLA-tagEarlier this week I got the contract in the mail, signed by all parties, and accompanied by a fantastic, heavy duty EMLA tote bag. Even the bag admits we’re on the same page. Just read that tag. Isn’t it perfect? They picked a company to print their bags who are not only members of the Fair Labor Association, but who also use veggie-based Enviro/Tech ink. They had me at “socially responsible.”

To be fair, Tricia already had me way back in November 2014. After our conferences, we treat our faculty to a nice dinner on Mount Washington, a great little restaurant with an incredible view overlooking the city of Pittsburgh (I’m the Illustration Coordinator for our chapter, so I tag along). This group of faculty was particularly, shall we say…animated? They were fantastic to work with, and got along exceptionally well with each other. The conversation at dinner steered in several odd and crazy directions, and then Trish asked, “In a zombie apocalypse, what’s your theme song, and what’s your weapon of choice?”

I’m glad I’m not kidding. She totally had me at “zombie apocalypse.”

P.S. As an aside, my answer would be Stone Cold Crazy and crossbow.

Hand lettering for my first tattoo design (!)

I'll ride the wave where it takes me (hand lettering)I guess it’s all who you know, I’m finding out.

I leave napkins I’ve doodled on at restaurants all the time, and one restaurant in particular apparently keeps the napkins and hangs them in the kitchen. Last month when we were there I left another doodle at the bar. The bartender recognized the art and said, “So you’re the one who draws those!” She commented about how just that day she had been looking at one I had left in March and was thinking about how she wanted a new tattoo with the kind of lettering I had drawn on the napkin. I offered to do the lettering for her for free if she was serious about getting the tattoo.

She was, and I did.

Here are the sketches I sent her.

In a funk kind of day


Today I seem to be enduring another funk kind of day. Funk, as in, I’m in one. You know when nothing wants to work right? And whatever you do doesn’t really matter? Spinning in circles? Getting nowhere? That’s me today.

My last three figure drawings likely won’t see the light of day until I’m dead and somebody finds them and decides to create a retrospective exhibit of all of my art that sucked. All my rejects. Salon des Refusés.

My last abstract painting never quite hit the mark that I was aiming for. The lettering that was part of the composition all but disappeared when I added the first coat of varnish. So I wrote again. And that disappeared with the second coat of varnish. The painting has been banished to the basement until further notice.

The picture book dummy that I’ve been shopping around is probably going to get shelved for a while until I get the enthusiasm back for the project to either start shopping it again or overhaul it to the point that the original point of the plot isn’t recognizable anymore. As per critiques. Q: How do you know if a critique is on the spot or if it’s just that one person? A: That same critique appears often, usually along with a rejection. Over and over. That hasn’t happened so far, but the day ain’t over yet.

The picture book dummy that I just finished is going to sit for a while longer, too. I’ve gotten some feedback that would require some thinking and possible revamping, but I’m going to wait until I hear back from an editor who might be able to help me later this month.

My Rots Facebook page‘s “like” numbers are dwindling. Facebook sent me a message about a month ago that they were “adjusting” my total number to more accurately reflect the current status of the page. Apparently a lot of people have closed their accounts since liking the page, and they seem to be continuing to do so at an alarming rate. Backwards numbers aren’t helping the attitude.

My lettering has taken a backseat simply because I’m essentially starting that part of my career from scratch, and I have to build up a stronger portfolio before I’m able to shop it around. The enormity of starting from scratch paralyzes me into not working on it at all.

And I’ve started over so many times: pencil > portraits > acrylic > oil > pen & ink > watercolor > colored pencil > editorial illustration > photography > Photoshop > Illustrator > PageMaker/InDesign > graphic design > book binding > web design/HTML/Dreamweaver > animation/Flash > printmaking > collage > children’s illustration > Painter > writing > The Rots > hand lettering…And every time I start over I find myself thinking, “This. This is what I need to learn how to do to make it happen. Once I learn this, everything else will fall into place.”

(For the record, that list of stuff in the last paragraph? Except for Dreamweaver, Flash and book binding I taught myself all of it. All. Of. It. Including Photoshop. And Dreamweaver and Flash have since gone by the wayside.)

And by the way, that little bunny painting up top? I did that a couple of days ago as the start of a new portfolio of images that I (hopefully, again) would like to sell as prints or originals…once I get enough of a collection amassed.

So, yeah, starting over once again. I think somebody once said that’s the sign of insanity. But what else do you do? If you create things then you create things. That’s just what you do. I need to shake the Funky Monkey and just do it.

I’d like to leave you with a Chuck Close quote:

Inspiration is for amateurs;
the rest of us just show up and get to work.