Sometimes a blog is art. Sometimes it’s art therapy, and sometimes it’s avoidance therapy.
I’m still plodding along on the illustrations for my first children’s book. The illustrations are black and white with punches of color, a style chosen from several versions of the book by Thing2 (Thing2 has impeccable taste and almost no filter. If he says wear the blue dress, I pick the blue dress). I’m making a few changes from the original sketches, but for the most part, I’m happy with the outcome. I’ve also been a bit worried, leading to an unfinished book and multiple new projects.
I’ve also been trimming and trimming Truth about Trolls to make it the right length, to make sure the story is allegorical and still uplifting. But because the allegory is abuse, it’s a tough subject. There is darkness in the injury, but so much of birth and rebirth — in nature and in our hearts — also happens in the darkness like seeds in soil.
Sometimes I worry that dark themes and color schemes will turn off children who are not mine. I know there are other mostly black-and-white children’s books and some that deal with difficult subject matter, but they are not the norm. It occurs to me, however, that at least a little of each book, like all of my last book, is as much for parents and other adults as it as for children.
And most grownups I know aren’t afraid of the dark.
For some reason I can’t quite remember, I found an hour or two to myself on Christmas Eve of all days. Presents were wrapped, someone else was responsible for Christmas Eve dinner, the table was set, and the Sunday New York Times was sitting on the end table waiting to be read. it turned out, that that Sunday Times contained a little lump of coal in the form of an article about the advent of sensitivity readers at publishing houses. I shouldn’t be surprised that there are 1 million ways to offend potential readers or that publishers might want to keep one or two of those readers, but I was suddenly very grateful for all the classic works of literature that, having survived government censors, had the good sense to be written before sensitivity readers existed.
Then I thought about my own kids’ book (and future book ideas) and all the ways it might possibly offend people.
The pictures are black-and-white and red all over, so some people might get offended by the predominance of red or the fact that the starring role in the book is played by kid with really bad hair. Or some sensitivity reader might worry that I’m insinuating that mom is with bad hair can’t get their kids to clean their rooms.
But as I thought about the ending of my little book about a kid who has his own idea about the definition of a clean room, I realized the people with whom I’m really gonna be in dutch are the millions of moms who are also trying to get their kids to clean their rooms. OK, so maybe I’ll only be in dutch with the moms who still have kids under 12. And I can whittle down that number to the number of moms who read my blog who haven’t figured out the magic formula for getting their kids under the age of 12 to clean their room. So that’s like, five or ten moms at least.
I don’t want to scare you because the book does have a happy ending, if you’re the kid with the messy room, and I do want to go on record that I am not endorsing the non-cleaning of rooms. I do find myself in the controversial situation of being willing to support a flexible definition of the term “clean room“.
This last week, was winter break and, after ordering Thing2 to clean his room two days in a row before he was allowed to invite friends over for “get together’s“ (formerly known as “play-dates” which, out of sensitivity to our resident tween, has been dropped from the approved household lexicon), I realize I’ve been a bit insensitive to him on this sensitive and highly controversial subject.
Thing2, now getting better at making the room look clean (at least to the casual observer), will stuff a few things end of the bed where they were less likely to show and spend the rest of his energy putting away all the shards of paper from his last homemade light saber, organizing his props for his next special effects project, and finding a place for all the disassembled electronics he rescues from the trash.
When he’s done, the room still looks like hazardous waste site, but in all fairness, the madness is the result of a creative but methodical and investigative spirit. What looks like a shambles to me is for him a laboratory of life.
I’m a huge believer in encouraging the creative spark in everyone, especially in my offspring. That laboratory is why he comes to me at the end of the day to show me the special effects space movie he’s just made or the book he’s just “published”. So even though even a domestic anti-goddesses such as myself sometimes has to draw a line between the dirty socks on the floor to establish benchmarks for distinguishing the a laboratory from a trashcan with a bunkbed in it, the laboratory is part of what makes Thing2 grow.
It’s also why, at the end of a book about a little boy who has his own idea about how to clean room, I decided to let that idea win out.
It’s December, and school is out. I have homework over the break, and work never stops. Still, this is close to recess as I normally get. And recess is time to play.
I used some of my December bonus to buy an iPad Pro and a pencil, thinking it might be faster to trace illustrations and to scan them in and clean them up in Photoshop. In the long run, it will probably be faster. In the short term, however, it is been an excuse to play just for the sake of playing. I have generated five or 10 iterations of the first page of my book, not making any progress and yet, making tons of it.
After three months where every moment of my life was defined by functionality, sometimes being able to make art just for the sake of art is progress.
“Dweezil’s Big To-Do” is the working title of a kids book that started as a way to learn the procedure of storyboarding and laying out a children’s book. As it happened, it was also a way to document the processes by which Thing2 manages to avoid ever truly cleaning his room.
I’m planning on offering signed copies of the book using grey ink to match my hair.
What started as an exercise in learning to storyboard a kid’s book for The Truth About Trolls has morphed into it’s own project–a way for me to laugh instead of cry about the eternal black hole that is T2’s room.
I’m almost done inking the drawings for “Dweezil’s Perfect Plan.” T2 has been happy to contribute his Defcon 5 messy room — one of the perils of encouraging creativity in your kid — for me to use as life model.
The plan after the inking is to convince T2 that it’s time to move to Defcon 1, but as the past few weeks have shown, even the most perfect plan can produce unexpected results.