I’m not really a convention queen, I just liked the alliteration. I definitely wouldn’t mind becoming one, though. That being said, I had the opportunity to work Comicpalooza (again) in Houston a few months back, and it was amazing.
I spent a lot of time chatting up this guy:
If you don’t recognize him, that’s Todd McCaffrey, co-author of the Dragons of Pern series – holding up a copy of his latest book City of Angels.
I was waiting to post about this until I had read his book. But a few days turned into a few weeks and a few weeks into a few months. Homeschooling the kiddo took priority and a lot of ancient biographies got put ahead in line. Now I find myself cramming 600 pages the night before I fly out to DragonCon, dying to find out what’s going to happen to this fictional tiny humanoid collection of nanotech. I’ll be working with Wordfire Press, hopefully hanging out with McCaffrey some more, and for sure trying to get this fun bit of sci-fi into more hands.
Wish me luck at DragonCon! And if you’re in Atlanta for Labor Day weekend, swing by. I’ll introduce you to some stellar people who love books just as much as we do.
I’ve gotten away from posting these, but I shouldn’t have. If you’re in the area, be sure to swing by Half Price Books Humble on Saturdays to check out local authors.
I got to see B.B. King live in concert once. I realize that millions of people have, that he toured relentlessly until now when he will never tour again. But, despite not being unique in this trait, I consider myself special for having experienced it.
It was 2004, and my friend (who had recently broken up with me) had already purchased tickets. “It’s ok if you take Tim,” I told him. His room mate at the time is just a big of a music geek as any of us, and quite a guitar player. Tim would have loved it. “No,” my ex said, a No I will forever appreciate, “No, I bought them for us to go, we’ll go together. It’ll be fun.”
To be fair, we’re not the awkward exes of dramatic literature and over played movie cliches. We’re friends, always were, and hopefully always will be. I respect him as a human, he is part of what grew me into an adult. Also, to be fair, even if he had been the ex from hell – I wasn’t going to argue too adamantly about whether or not I got to go to the Eric Clapton Crossroads Concert. It was Eric Clapton. It was B.B. King. It was… everyone who made guitar history ever…
It was beautiful.
I drove up from Houston to Dallas to attend. In June, in a car with no AC. I stayed the weekend in dorm rooms that were closed for the summer. It was worth it just to hear that man play.
It was a hot, sunny day – until the end when it wasn’t and ZZ Top got rained out – sweltering even, but it was good. It was several generations of men in the most relaxing and amazing jam session on stage that I’d ever heard. It was Texas in a stadium of fans born and bred in Texas – I’m not great with crowds, but good old country boys listening to the blues is a crowd I can manage. I was laying in the grass while an old hippie with boobs down to her waistline swayed, clapped, and danced, depending on what was most appropriate for whatever song was playing.
I wish I could record my journal entry from that weekend here for you, but that journal is in storage, and I doubt I was very articulate anyway… I imagine it was a lot of: Oh My God, that was AMAZING. I do know that I lamented the fact that my now husband hadn’t been able to get tickets and go himself. It was something I knew he would have enjoyed. My ex is my friend, but my husband has always been my very best friend – especially then. Now, I lament that he missed it completely. Seeing B.B. King together was something I thought we’d get around to eventually. I should have known better, the man was old. But he seemed so epically immortal. Even though he sat through the whole concert, I didn’t see it then as a sign of an older man – I saw it as a sign of a King on his throne.
I remember John Mayer coming out. I remember being so proud of how respectful he was to all the men who had come before him – especially B.B. King. I didn’t like John Mayer until that moment, until I saw him bow with such grace to a man that I adored and would come to adore more and more as I aged, as I married, as I had a baby who would live the first year of her life listening to jazz and R&B in our living room while my husband smoked a cigar on the porch after work with the door open so the music and the smoke could play a wafting dance on the threshold. B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald… my child knows these voices well.
B.B. King, you have shaped so many lives with your talent, you beautiful, beautiful man. Thank you for gracing the world with your presence. Thank you for all the concerts, all the performances, and all the love for music that has always seemed to radiate from your entire being and existence. Bless you. Thank you, and bless you.
Already in the mere four years I’ve been a homeschool mom, with my child not even “school age,” homeschooling in general has proven to be as much an education for me as it is for her. When you homeschool, field trips feel imperative. Not only do you want your kid to interact in the world, but even the most extreme homebody, if not an agoraphobe, gets a touch of cabin fever now and again.
In 2012, we discovered that Houston has an annual Pow Wow and attended. I documented that trip here. The kiddo loved it. We studied everything a two year old could “study” about Native Americans at that time and watched a lot of Pocahontas after the event. The culture, the dancing, the drums, the music, the food, I tried to dip my very pasty child in the whole experience. She came away desperately wanting an out fit just like the girl’s she took a picture with in my previous blog post (see left).
Life happened and we missed the 2013 gathering, though we do intend to attend every year.
This year, though kiddo didn’t do much in the way of pre- Pow Wow “research,” I felt the need to grab a book. On my lunch breaks I’ve been perusing The Five Civilized Tribes. I was most interested in the segment on the Choctaw since that is the tribe our rumored ancestor was supposed to have been. (I’m convinced everyone claims a tie to the Native Americans, I’m not convinced everyone has one… I’m not convinced I even have one. But from a geographical standpoint, Choctaw makes good sense.)
I’m not done reading, so a full review cannot commence. Currently, I’ve read through the Choctaw segment and now am knee deep in the Creeks. The book, however, is thorough and enjoyable though – as the Christian Science Monitor reported – “pure history, sober, and fully documented.” One would assume that it would read dry, but it’s not. Sober and dry should not be used interchangeably when speaking of history, but often it is. Especially when dealing with the history of the Native American Indian tribes. Their cultures are too colorful and their history too rich to ever be considered dry.
My favorite bit about the Choctaw is how thoroughly devoted to educating their children they were. Building school houses and hiring teachers was a huge deal for them. They built educational requests into their treaties. Although I don’t agree with institutionalizing, I do find it interesting how much they wanted to learn about those infiltrating their land. Some would say that it was an effort to assimilate, but I don’t think so. I think it was more of an effort to understand. Understanding and knowledge is important to me, though, so perhaps that is always how I will interpret those sorts of actions.
We don’t speak with the competitors at the Pow Wows much. I’d like to know what tribes they are affiliated with, who their ancestors are, whether they live next door or on a reservation. I’d like to talk to them all, interview them all, watch them all more closely. But they are there for a competition and seem to be far more in the public eye than what could possibly be comfortable. Instead we politely nod, smile, purchase raffle tickets for Indian Blankets, donate money to musicians, and try not to take too many invasive pictures of the dancers. Instead, my child makes friends with their children for the day and blows bubbles, and desperately contains herself from touching their bead work and feathers, lest a fiercely intense father of a playmate scowl at all his hard work being undone.
The event is beautiful. It’s all so beautiful.
Today, however, it was rainy and cold. The Pow Wow had to be moved from the arena to a pavilion. The show must go on, though, rain or shine, and despite the cold and the wet, they danced, and they were brilliant and kind. Kind – even when my daughter said quite boldly during their prayer time, “But Indians DON’T PRAY!” I promise I didn’t teach her that. I popped her little butt and said, “Everyone prays, now bow your head.”
When I was in San Antonio Saturday, my best friend dragged me to the old Farmer’s Market – dragged is too harsh, that makes it sound like I was kicking and screaming and I wasn’t. I was happy to go and see something new, was excited about it really, except I looked past the archways from the street and my stomach sank… people. Lots and lots of people. Crowds didn’t bother me much when I was younger, they couldn’t, I went to a 5A highschool and if you were nervous in a crowd you’d drown in a sea of elbows. (I realize now that maybe they did, I just often had a hand to cling to – my now husband – when walking through those crowds, not sure my bestie would be down with me grabbing her hands to hold in public… doesn’t stop me from wanting to.) Doesn’t change the fact that I see one ahead these days and I have to summon a purpose or desire for something in that crowd in order to enter it.
In this case, food, art, and music. My trifecta that gets me through the festival experience. I love those things. And even though the Market was crowded – the worst of it at Mi Tierra – there was a little bit of space and I found myself able to breathe. Especially once I got myself to the art booths.
Right outside Mi Tierra I stumbled across two separate booths. One for Joseph Hernandez Jr. (www.josephhernandezartist.com) and one for Robert Wilkens (email@example.com).
It was the impressionistic style of Joseph Hernandez that caught my attention to the art in the first place. I was already tired from shopping, tired of the crowds, and on the verge of becoming very hungry. But then I saw this:
This is Joseph Hernandez Jr. He paints vibrantly, is self-taught, and stands about as tall as me. I could have stood in his booth and looked at every single painting for hours. If I were wealthy, I would have bought one of everything. My house would become a gallery to his work. I loved all the color. His use of it reminded me of Bryan Collins work even if their styles are nothing alike.
Much of his work is perfect for the tourist or native San Antonio lovers. He chooses places around town to capture on the canvas. Far more valuable than any photograph you could take of the same location.
He has just as many paintings of a random assortment, random things that inspired him… trees and branches are a running theme for him. He had a lot for musicians – a sax, a violin, music notes, etc. I can’t imagine walking into his booth and not seeing something you want to take home with you. The hard part is deciding which something.
His paintings are affordable for the art collector. Good size canvases that I’ve seen sell in the thousands by less talented painters were running between $400 – $500. You could buy a very small canvas for $25 and walk away with an original piece. His prints were what would hit your pocket, averaging at half the price of the canvas. Seeing that I opted to save for an original Hernandez, rather than buying a print. I took a business card, but came back later to take this picture with him:
Only a few booths away, closer to the Mi Tierra entrance, was Robert Wilkens – or Roberto as his wife kept calling him, and I can’t get her voice and pronunciation of his name out of my head. She’s gorgeous and so passionate about his work.
I asked to take a picture of his work and later found out that most people just take the pictures – they don’t generally ask first. I’m used to museums and conventions, rather than festivals, and I always ask. Otherwise you might find yourself being barked at.
Robert and his wife were very gracious and let me take as many pictures as I wanted. Robert is a chatterer, and I enjoyed talking to him while I watched him paint. He teased me about my tattoo – told me it said “Soy Sauce in Chinese, didn’t you know?” I picked on him for assuming I didn’t know what my tattoo said, just because I was a white girl. Some things are funnier in my head than they are out loud. Either way, Robert and I had a nice long chat about artistry and professions. We showed him a picture of my kiddo’s art work. We talked about books and my career as a writer.
“When did you first know you wanted to write?” he asked me.
“The moment I realized that ink came out of a pen and formed words on a page,” I answered.
He’s been a painter for decades, but he took the long road it sounds. He had a lot of people tell him he couldn’t make a living at it. It’s clear that he can, his work is incredible. We talked about how we encourage that artistic spirit in our children. My daughter – the child of a writer – is quite the little painter. His daughter – the child of a painter – just might be the next great American novelist.
He was a muralist for a long time, you can see the remnants of that life in some of his work. I love it, and I want him to come do some walls in Houston that need sprucing.
He’s good enough for the first lady, he should be good enough for everyone:
Artist – Muralist, Robert Wilkens has been in the arts for twenty-five years and has worked commercially for fourteen years. He is well established in all media of the arts. Robert’s talent and dedication to his work has taken him to Mexico and all over the United States of America, even to the White House in the service of the First Lady, Laura Bush. There is no other artist of Roberts caliber when it comes to working with clients. His work ethics are honest and the beauty of his brush strokes while painting murals are eloquent and always precise.
I may not enjoy crowds, but I love discovering. I love traveling and the search for new experiences and people. I love seeing something I’ve never encountered before and picking it apart in my brain, learning to describe it. New sights and smells and sounds may overwhelm me, but I welcome it as a learning experience. I am so glad we went to Market Square that day. I am glad we met Joseph Hernandez Jr and Robert Wilkens. I am glad we waited for seats at Mi Tierra, even after we were told it would be an hour and half before we could be seated (it was actually only 35 minutes). I’m ecstatic that I got to eat cheese enchiladas and suck down a Mojito before devouring more art with my eyes. (I’m mildly amused that I got carded for my Mojito.)
When I went back out to take more pictures of Robert’s work and buy a print of his with my bestie, I was pleasantly buzzed (light weight, cheap date, whatever, I’ll take the name calling)… and found this:
I want the original. It’s magnificent. The detail in the water and his pant leg is stellar. I wanted to be swept away with him, from the dirty street and into that clear, blue water, up to the moon. It helps that I find suitcases and umbrellas terribly romantic.
It helps that I find travel romantic. It helps that adventure fascinates me, even if it makes me a little nervous, I still want to experience it all. I want to absorb art through my eyes and bathe in it. I want to taste new foods and close my eyes and live the flavor. I want to meet new people and really discover who they are before I leave their presence, even if it takes a little bit of work to stay focused on what they are telling me. I want to be dazzled.
Every Wednesday during the summer I make an appearance at Half Price Books Humble, 10:30 am sharp. I make an announcement over the intercom – NOT my forte – place snacks on the children’s table, and pick out stories to read out loud to whoever arrives.
Sometimes I have crowds! Sometimes it’s just me and Kiddo hanging out reading as we would at home. Sometimes I have authors come and read their books to the kids. But ALWAYS it is a little bit magical.
How appropriate then that Edward Castro joined us for a second time with his book Hanna’s Magic Light.
Not available yet in a physical copy, Castro read to the kids from a bound manuscript while his agent showed the pictures on her tablet. The kids were riveted by the story about Hanna and her Daddy and the magical dome light in the car, turned lesson on finding your own inner light.
At the end, each kid received a cupcake and/or cookie as well as a “magic light” of their own to take home – Glow Sticks made into a necklace.
Tomorrow is Wednesday again. We won’t have Castro back this soon, but we will be featuring Song for Papa Crow, compliments of Schiffer Publishing.
Castro will return later in July. For those who cannot make middle of the week events, this will allow you to meet the author and purchase a hard copy of his picture book, as he hopes to have some in print by then:
Title: Song for Papa Crow
Author: Marit Menzin
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
I was delighted to have Schiffer Publishing contact me to review a selection of their picture books. There can never be too many children’s books here in the Klemm household, as kiddo devours them for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, dinner, and bedtime. We’re readers. We read. We’re also artists and we love admiring quality picture books.
As a homeschool mom of an aspiring birder, I couldn’t find Song for Papa Crow any more perfect.
This is a lovely story about how Little Crow loves to sing. He sings his heart out and in the course of teaching children what birds of North America make what sounds, we also follow Little Crow on a a journey of self-discovery and why it’s a beautiful thing to be yourself.
Menzin’s collage art is gorgeous. Kiddo and I adore all the rich colors. We spend a good deal of time outdoors and it’s wonderful to see nature portrayed with so much texture even while confined to the pages of a book.
Of course, after every book, I ask kiddo what she thinks. My three year old smiled broadly and responded, “I think it’s ridiculous.” Ridiculous, naturally, being pronounced ridicooooolous and said for the sheer enjoyment of using the word. Proven by the fact that she has asked for me to read “the Papa Crow one” at least twice a day since our first reading.
Now, a week later, I ask kiddo:
“Would you like to say anything about Papa Crow to our readers?”
“Yes,” she says decisively.
“What would you like to say?”
“Nothing at all, I just want it to be SEEN.”
Powerful words from a three year old, I think. She’s right, we could talk about how awesome Papa Crow is all day, but when all is said and done, Menzin’s collages simply must be seen.
Songs for Papa Crow will accompany us to Story Time at Half Price Books Humble for the next two weeks (July 2nd & 9th). We meet every Wednesday, all summer, at 10:30 am. Though we typically read multiple titles, we tend to choose a favorite to feature each week. We will also have a few Schiffer Kids Spring 2014 Catalogs for patrons of Story Time to peruse. Snacks are provided.
I look forward to reading more from Schiffer Books as well as Marit Menzin. The Klemms are officially fans for life.