Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nine Years

How could shame blight such a wondrous day? I should be posting the delicious baked treats my son will eat for his birthday celebration at school, a photo of me holding a plate of homemade Yodels, those chocolate-covered mini cake rolls. But no, there will be no such photo springing up on Facebook, only this old one of my face covered by the Alien of failure...

Spent last night trying to make those little treats, and maybe it was the spongy, ragged cake layer that refused to roll without disintegrating, or maybe it was the melancholy marshmallow filling that didn't freeze well in its threadbare carpet of devil's food cake and spent the night weeping, but when I tried to dip this forlorn mass into the melted chocolate this morning the cake and the filling each decided they were unfit for such a union and had better part company, leaving me with shapeless mounds of hardening chocolate covering only a gooey memory of cake.

No photo. A media shutdown; there will be no evidence of this disaster.

I shuffled upstairs and told Doug I was throwing in my chocolate-smeared towel and would do what he advised all along: I was going to (shudder) bring to school (wince) Store Bought Cupcakes.
Oh, the ignomy.

Moving on to brighter things:

He's nine! My boy will have spent eight and a half years with us, his lucky lucky parents. It's hard to believe it's been this long, but I'm not bemoaning the rush of time. I don't mind the years passing (well, for him, anyway) because it just keeps getting better, he gets better, and funnier, and more thoughtful. Yes, homework is now officially a Nightmare, and I know adolescence is just around the bend, but right now he's just the coolest kid to be around.

A couple of my favorite things he's said this year:

He was watching this video from Green Day— Boulevard of Broken Dreams ("I walk these empty streets, on the boulevard of broken dreams... I walk alone, I walk alone") —

—and he turned to me and said "He's not walking alone, he's got all those other guys with him!"

Third grade really ramps up the homework, and it's been, as I said, a Nightmare, with math facts, spelling words, extra projects, graph charts, Kumon, chapter books and word problems relentlessly nipping at poor Benj, not to mention two hovering parents who want to make sure he's doing everything he supposed to be doing. Doug was in the car driving him to school and trying to make him study his spelling words for a test later that week. Benj refused, Doug gently/strongly suggested that maybe he could just look over the words  and spell them aloud, Benj refused, Doug suggested gently/implacably again that he should reconsider, Benj will have none of it, pouting, squirming, shouting, Doug continues, Benj has had it, yells out, "I wish you and Baba would get a divorce and then I would live with Baba and you can roam the Earth alone!"

(A pretty biblical allusion for someone living in an Atheist/Buddhist household, don't you think? Of course, I like this story because I come off pretty well. Poor Doug didn't know that I had quizzed Benj on his words not 15 minutes prior to them driving off. And now he's got to roam the Earth alone, like Cain...)

Benj gently remonstrating Doug for getting frustrated with his mother: "You shouldn't get mad at her. You know, she's all alone now and Pop used to do all these things for her and now she has no one." How empathetic is that?

On the flip side, he was listening to Doug's mom spinning out of control on the car's speakerphone and he asked her, very simply, "Hey Mimi, why don't you let God take care of it?" "What'd he say?" the minister's wife asked. He repeated it. "Huh. Well, I better go," she said, and hung up.

From the mouths of babes.

Happy Birthday my amazing boy. May your years ahead be sweet ones, and better-shaped than my yodels.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Warning! Contents of a Graphic Nature to Follow!

I've got something really exciting to share with y'all today: some graphic novel art, written by me and illustrated by the mongo talented artist Sungyoon Choi. 

The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and NocturnesThe novel I've written, Liberace Under Venetian Skies, is mostly in prose, but it also incorporates sections of graphic novel, handwritten marginalia and fragments of screenplay. I'm a big fan of graphic novels (my first love: The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman) and I find the juxtaposition of image and text to be an incredibly tensive and exciting experience. Unfortunately, my illustrative skills line up with those of paralytic chimpanzees. Enter Choi.

How I met up with Choi is a story of moxie and good luck. A couple of years back, I'd read a graphic novel that really moved me called American Widow, by Alissa Torres. It's a memoir of a woman who's husband died in the Twin Towers on 9/11 on his first day at work. It recounts how they met, how she found out about his death, and the horrible, protracted aftermath of her trying to find his remains, deal with her pregnancy and also get aid from government bureaucracies. It's pretty powerful, and it's all in graphic novel form. The illustrator, I noted, was Sungyoon Choi. I loved her work; it was simple and clean but quite evocative, using a very limited palette. I thought the style of her illustrations was exactly what I was looking for in my book. 

So I wrote her.

I found her website and emailed her, telling her how much I admired her work and explained my situation, that I was looking for an artist for a book I was working on and would she be interested in taking a look at it? I included an excerpt and sent it off, not expecting too much from this completely out-of-the-blue inquiry. Amazingly, she wrote me back. Even more amazingly, she was into the project! She liked the excerpt and was interested in working with me. 

We kept in touch while I finished up the draft and got it ready to send out to agents. I knew that having some artwork would help in defining the concept of the book, and Sungyoon generously agreed to illustrate four pages to use as a sample. I can't tell you what a particularly thrilling experience it was to open the email, click on the attachment and see the script I had written made manifest. I couldn't have been more pleased.

So take a look at this excerpt and let me know what you think.  It occurs at the end of the first part of the book. If you want to see it bigger, just click on the image:

Pretty cool, eh?