Friday, August 31, 2007

Crossed over the bar

Last night I had an e-mail from Jay McCarthy of the Lightship Sailors Association, letting me know that early last month Hal Washburn, one of the lightship sailors I interviewed for Lightship, had, as they say in these circles, “crossed over the bar.”

Hal served on Light Vessel 115 as a young man, in 1945 and 1946, helping to warn ships away from the dangerous Frying Pan Shoals off the coast of North Carolina. His old ship, known to many people these days simply as the Frying Pan, happens to be docked in the Hudson River here in New York. (The picture here is one that I snapped earlier this month, while out on a schooner on the Hudson. Unlike the staid Ambrose lightship at the South Street Seaport Museum, the Frying Pan lightship is now used basically as a bar.) When Lightship was still in the sketch stage I got Hal’s contact information from the folks who run the Frying Pan now, and he treated me like an old friend from word one. He happily sent photos of himself and his friends from his lightship days, shared stories, and reviewed drawings and text. He was pleased, I think, to see his obscure (to most people, anyway) old line of work get the picture book treatment. I am pleased that the book got to him in time for him to see it and share it with his grandson, and remain grateful for his help.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dead calm

Yes, friends and readers, if I had to choose just one nautical term to describe the signing this past weekend, I would choose “dead calm.” Which beats “mayday,” I suppose, but, still. Well, it happens to the best of'em. And on the bright side, between the long lulls, there were some real and rewarding moments of connection with readers and families, and also plenty of time for those of us at the signing table to try on pirate eye-patches, so that it was, in the end, a well-spent afternoon. (Accidentally wrote "singing table" on the first go-round there, which may have been a Freudian slip, but let's not dwell on that.) Thanks to the Museum for hosting and to those who stopped by!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I must down to the seas again... the lonely sea and sky. Actually, not so lonely, is my true hope. By these words I mean to infer that I’m doing Lightship readings on LV 87, the Ambrose lightship herself, this Sunday the 26th, at the South Street Seaport Museum here in New York, and it would be great if you came by. Yes, you. This is part of the Museum's Super Story Sunday program. Those are their words, not mine. Anyway, we've got readings set for 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30, which, come to think of it, are probably about three times as many readings as we'll need, but there we are. Books for sale, too, and the chance to ask me trick questions about the boat. Or regular questions. Up to you. Bring the extended family!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Lost at Sea

Even as I type, the able crew at Spoken Arts is at work on a video presentation of Lightship, coming this fall to the school and library market. Not a fully animated video, but not just pan and scan, either. Think Ken Burns, with more moving parts. I mean that in a good way. Anyway, it’s all pretty much straight from the book, except that Spoken Arts is working in one piece of art that was cut when I re-rigged the book’s ending at the last possible minute, and they also requested one new drawing to go with a line in the text about the difficulties of drinking coffee as the waves lift and drop the ship. (One more reason to stay on land, that.) In the book the moment with the drink of drinks is not illustrated, but Spoken Arts thought that something would feel missing in the video if there wasn’t a visual there. The loss of a cup of coffee is an emotional and difficult subject to draw, but here it is. Note that although the image is not here animated, you can rock your monitor back and forth and you’ll get the gist.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

First Post

If I'm fooling around with something new on the internet, then I must be on deadline. With that I say, Welcome to the blog. I’ll start the posting rolling with some behind-the-scenes goods from the most recent book, Lightship. Today, a sketch. Truth be told, it usually feels as though a rain forest worth of paper is required to move any idea from Notion toward the hallowed destination of Book, and most early drawings well deserve the trash can to which they are consigned — but occasionally you get a drawing which has that pleasing roughness and sense of exploration that can make a sketch more interesting than a finished piece. Or interesting in a different but equal way, let’s say. Anyhow, such is how I felt about this very worked, pencil, marker, tracing paper, and Scotch tape study of the engine room on the Ambrose lightship: