Informational Flyer for School Visits

I finally did it. Parted with some hard-earned cash to print up flyers in the hope they’ll lead to more school visits. I don’t know why I resisted. Felt a little egotistical somehow. Anyway, I’ll bring them to book festivals, share them with librarians. But if you are interested in having me visit your school — or your school district for a multiple-school visit — I’d be happy to send along a few. I could also send a PDF, which is faster, easier, cheaper. But, admittedly, not as much fun. 

Anyway: thanks for your interest. Write me a note at jamespreller@aol.com and we’ll start this ball rolling. Still some openings at the end of this school year. It’s a great time to start thinking about 2019-2020 school year.

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #282: Art & Poems from Ohio!

I received one of those rare, beautiful packages that fortunate folks in my line of work sometimes get — an envelope bursting with kind wishes from a classroom of young artists and writers, all masterfully orchestrated by a creative, book-loving teacher.

Each second-grade student made a watercolor painting on one side of the card, along with a haiku on the reverse side. (And boy, wouldn’t it be great if that became a thing — sending me haiku written by elementary school students. I’m all in.)

Here’s a few random examples to give you an idea of the poems and birthday wishes . . .

 

 

 

Believe me, I could have shared any number of them. All the students did a great job. Thank you, boys and girls and class hamster.

I replied to the class:

 

Dear Mrs. L,

It is such a nice thing to have good friends in Ohio. I feel truly blessed to receive your spectacular package in the mail. It combines so many of things I love into one simple manila envelope: artwork by young people, haiku, a love of books, good memories, friendship.

I’ve laid out the cards on my floor and I’m admiring them now. Such variety: snowflakes and snowpeople and rainbows and falling snow. But it’s the haiku I love the most. As you know, I have a book of haiku coming out . . . someday. It takes so long. I wrote the haiku back in 2016. The artist, Mary GrandPre –- who illustrated the Harry Potter books –- signed on to do the artwork. But it takes time to make a book. In this case, four years. It’s been delayed twice. The waiting is the hardest part. Now I’m hearing Spring of 2020. Oh well. In the end, all that matters is the finished book. When you hold a book in your hands, you don’t worry if the art came in late or not. Or if the publisher was slow in the turn around. You just want a satisfying book that touches your heart.

In the meantime, I still try to write at least one haiku every single day. It doesn’t always happen, but I do try to take a few minutes to look at things, to appreciate the moment. Yesterday I drove in a gusty winter storm, watching the wind whip the light, powdery snow in swirls, so I wrote:

 

Wind-swept snow twirling

in graceful patterns -– dancers

In satin dresses.

 

I don’t think that haiku is quite right — maybe it will never be — but I’ll likely revise it over the next few days. No matter, now I’ll always remember the way the wind moved that light, powdery snow.

Maybe the wind and snow were dancing together?

You are right: R.W. Alley –- we call him “Bob” –- is a terrific illustrator. I love his work; he really makes those characters come alive. I think, also, that Bob sees the kindness in the Jigsaw Jones stories, and you can feel it in his warm drawings.

You know, people complain about the winter. Well, people complain about a lot of things. But right now I’m sitting with a puppy at my feet –- his name is Echo –- and he’s a terror –- and there’s a blanket of snow on the ground. I can’t see the shape of the sun, hidden in the gray haze, but there’s a sharp brightness trying to pierce through the clouds. Faint shadows of tall pines lay quivering on the land. The world is a beautiful place, don’t you agree?

I loved my visit to your school last year. You laughed and laughed. I can close my eyes and hear it still. Thanks for your friendship.

All good things, your friend,

James Preller

 

P.S. Mrs. L can call me Jimmy!

Happy Valentine’s Day

Cartoon by Paul White, brought to my attention by the great Mommywise page on Facebook. Carry on!

CHECKING IN with Matthew Cordell: Because I was getting worried about frostbite

JP: Hey, Matt! I’ve noticed that you seem to be taking a morning walk each day, sketchbook in hand, regardless of the weather. That’s cool. Or in this case, freezing. Um . . . just wondering . . . is everything okay with you? What’s up with that?
MC: For years, I’ve been trying to incorporate some light exercise into my daily routine. I’m by no means athletic, but the older I get, the more it seems I’m expected to do such a thing. (Sigh.) We have a treadmill in our house and I find it horribly boring to get on that thing, even with music or tv on. I also find it boring to just walk around our suburban neighborhood.
So what changed?
Back in November, I made this really cool trip out to Bozeman, Montana, for a book festival and school visits. And I was fortunate enough to spend some of that time in Yellowstone. I realized on that trip that I was perfectly willing to get out and exercise (walk) if the scenery was beautiful enough. And I’ve got some great forest preserves near my house, so it all just kinda clicked after that trip. Another thing I’ve been trying to do for years is keep a daily (or semi-daily) sketchbook routine going. Doing a bit of daily drawing that has nothing to do with the books I’m making. Drawing that has nothing to do with deadlines or expectations.
So this is not the next big book from you? 
I wish I could figure out a way to turn this into a book somehow, because it’s been a lot of fun for me and good for my well-being.
Maybe a picture book involving hypothermia . . . ? 
But getting a book out of it is not really the point. I guess everything like this is for the greater good anyways, so it all helps fill the well or whatever that expression is.
In my own way, I can relate to what you’ve been doing.  For the past year I’ve been trying to begin my days by writing at least one haiku. Today I wrote two bad ones about mud. Who cares! I did my best. It’s not about the finished product. It’s about the benefit of paying attention to the natural world. That’s a Mary Oliver line, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” That’s true regardless of your spiritual inclinations. In other wordsdon’t just do somethingstand there. Attend, notice. But in your case, it seems like a head space thing. You aren’t actually drawing what’s in front you, right? 
Yes, that’s exactly it! Sounds like you are doing the writer’s equivalent of what I’ve been up to. That’s cool. And no, I don’t usually draw what I’m looking out on my walks. I love drawing animals, so I’ve been doing a lot of that. I grab images off of Google and save to my phone. I’ll occasionally do a self-portrait while out in the cold. Self-portrait is great, immediate subject matter that you don’t have to think too much about. I think I’ll draw more from life when spring comes and everything starts coming alive again. It’s just not terribly inspiring to me to draw a bunch of leafless trees and snowbanks. 
Oh, I guess you didn’t read my post about the beauty of bare winter trees. It made a huge splash on the interwebs. 
One of the things holding me back was up until recently I never knew of a good pen to draw with that would emulate the sketchy desk-bound dip pens I love to use. An illustrator pal (and fountain pen aficionado), Steve Light, tipped me off to a type of refillable pen that had just the right line I’d always been looking for. So the daily morning walk/exercise doubles as a daily art/exercise. It’s all good for the soul and brain to do this stuff. It makes me feel better for the rest of the day. It clears my head. It’s good to get away from the desk and emails and studio and do it. It’s definitely cold!
We got a puppy about two months ago. A highly energetic dog that needs lots of walks. So I’m getting out there in every sort of weather –- and most of the time, I feel glad I’m out. A dog forces you to venture out into the world, wrap that wool scarf around your neck, whereas otherwise I might stay indoors, laptop open, hovering over Facebook’s angry icon.
I don’t really notice the cold after about 10 minutes into the walk. It helps to layer up. Snow pants and everything.
love my silk long johns.
It’s interesting, because this whole thing started for me in the dead of winter. I’m looking forward to experiencing this throughout the different seasons. Drawing outside is probably a lot easier when it’s 70 degrees. I wonder how it will be when it’s 90 degrees.
Um . . . sweaty? 
Different challenges in the summer. Maybe I can use the sweat for some watercolor work.
Okay, that’s pretty gross. Otherwise, I’m glad we had this little talk. I stalk you on social media, naturally, and I was growing concerned for your mental health.
It never occurred to me that any of this looks a little unusual until I started posting about it on social media. Several concerned friends have been like, “Why the heck are you out there drawing in sub-zero wind chills?”
Some days I can only tolerate taking my glove off just long enough to draw a simple line drawing. But it feels like an accomplishment when I do it. I realize I could just do walk and do the drawing indoors before or afterwards. But there’s something really invigorating about pushing myself in that way. Going outside and staying outside to do both of these things I want to do. It’s just nice to draw outside. I do really enjoy all of it. I guess when I think about it, it is kind of unusual or ridiculous in a, like,”extreme sport” sort of way. Yes, I totally just equated this very mild activity with extreme sports.
No, I mean, Matt, I’m serious. I really love my long johns . . . 
MATTHEW CORDELL IS THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR OF THE 2018 CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER, Wolf In the Snow.
-M
HIS NEW BOOK, Hope, COMPLETES HIS “WISH” TRILOGY. 
          

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #281: Happy Birthday, Kiera!

Here’s a particularly entertaining letter from Kiera, who is having (hopefully!) a swinging, taco-friendly birthday on Sunday. Hey, Kiera, you don’t look a day over 37. I mean 9!

I replied . . .

 

Dear Kiera,

Oh my, what an entertaining letter that comes to me all the way from Keosaugua, Iowa. Here on my birthday –- number 58! –- it feels like a gift from the universe. Thank you.

When I look deeper into the envelope, I find a bracelet you’ve crafted for me, using Jigsaw Jones’ favorite colors, borrowed from the New York Mets. I’m wearing it right now (see photographic evidence as proof). True story!

How did you know I desperately needed one?

Our kind and shaggy goldendoodle, Daisy, died two months ago. It was heartbreaking for all of us. Like your dog, Daisy was not (at all!) the brightest, but she may have been the sweetest. To ease our pain, we got a new puppy, which my daughter named Echo. He’s a rescue pup, part border collie, part who knows! He’s full of energy and mischief. My days are filled with long walks and attempts to keep Echo from eating the furniture.

I’m glad you are a Jigsaw Jones fan. I love The Case from Outer Space and The Case of the Buried Treasure very much, but I think that the new one, The Case of the Hat Burglar, might be the best of all. It comes out in August.

Happy birthday, Kiera. You are a terrific writer, by the way. Funny, too. Keep it up! I hope there are gazillions of tacos in your future!

Besides baseball, my favorite sport is . . . READING! It should be in the Olympics.

Oh, also: I have a new book that just came out (January 29th), called The Big Idea Gang: Everybody Needs a Buddy. I think you might like it. Did you ever hear of a “buddy bench”? The story is about that, and more! Friendship, kindness, community. And benches.

Thanks for making my birthday a happy one. Your friend,

 

James Preller