Money for Art

When I was three years old, there was a grocery store near my house called Super Duper.  One day, I went with my grandmother to pick up food, and I saw a cardboard stand stuffed with teddy bears.  She told me I could pick one out, and I chose a brown fluffy bear with a red bowtie.  His name was Honey-Jo.

From that moment on, we were inseparable.  As a child with no pets, he became my best friend and closest confidant.  I slept with him every night, and played with him every day.  On my birthday, he would make me cards and leave them on my bed (yes, I’m aware that was actually my dad making them on his work computer, I’m not crazy.)

When I got older and having a teddy bear became “childish,” I refused to give in.  In fact, he still resides in my bed some 33 years later, and Hubs is always sure to pick him up if he falls on the floor, or give him to me to snuggle when I’m sick.  His bowtie is gone and his fur is matted after a thousand washes.  He is likely my prized possession, and when I die, he will be cremated with me.  Seriously. 


I wrote a story about him.  A poem, actually, that I decided to turn into a children’s book.  I have never written such a thing, and when the idea struck, I penned the whole story in one evening.  Then I put it away for about 8 years.  One day last year, I pulled it from the recesses of my word files and polished it up, just for fun.  Then I thought, hey, why not give it a real go?

I went to Twitter in search of artist suggestions.  Knowing nothing about illustrations, I inquired as to how someone could find an illustrator on a budget, or even for free.  The free bit caught me some flack because one chick got up in arms about paying for work flat out.  I don’t think she understood the point of my post-I was looking for collaboration, not free art.  I would never just write someone a story for free unless they were friend or family, but I would definitely collaborate with someone on something that could make money down the road.  Anyway, Twitter is where I found the very talented Mr. Darell Teague.

A big believer in art for everyone, he offered to work on the book for free, understanding my need for a collaborator.  I sent him a page by page idea of what I was looking for, and he got back to me with some wonderful sketches.  Now, it’s been a couple months as he has other projects he is working on, but I am fine with waiting because I appreciate his view on art for art’s sake.  I mean, I write in this blog twice a week, and I’m not making a dime off it.  I understand the perspective.

I’m of the mind, you see, that a true artist cannot NOT make art, and share it with the world, regardless of payment.  I have been paid for very little that I have worked on artistically.  I am still hoping for my first real paycheck for writing, but I am not deterred by rejections and road blocks.  I have been published many times, and that is exhilarating in itself, because I do it for the readers, not the money.  You want money?  Get a day job.  Hone your art at night, so that one day it will be profitable.

My big dream is to finish my little kids’ book and have Darell illustrate it, and then find a publisher.  It’s a long and arduous process, but I am looking forward to it nonetheless.  I want kiddos to read it and look at the pictures and be taken to a dream world like I was with picture books as a child.  And if we make some money off it, all the better.

Death of Amusement

So, I live in Buffalo, New York.  For those unaware, that is absolutely nowhere near New York City; it is literally on the other side of the state.  I am often asked, once I say I live in NYS, what the city is like.  I can tell you, as I have visited before, but I have never lived there.  I have always lived in Western New York, and Buffalo in particular is my home.

Here’s a landmark Buffalo is near that you will know:  Niagara Falls.  It’s only about a 30-40 minute drive from here.  On your way there, you pass over a bridge onto Grand Island, which once claimed to be the largest freshwater island in the world, even though it isn’t (fun fact.)  As you drive across the island to the next bridge, you don’t see much but trees and car dealerships.  Until you pass the Ferris Wheel.

The Ferris Wheel is the gondola sort, and towers over a little amusement park going by the name of Fantasy Island.  You can also see the rollercoaster and Log Flume from the road.  As a youngster, I loved going to Fantasy Island.  It walked a fine line between old-timey amusements and brand spanking new fun.  I was thrilled when they put in a water park, complete with a lazy river, something that even the big local(ish) amusement park, Darien Lake, did not have at theirs.  They had a Wild West town, where they would have skits reenacting shootouts, and had can-can dancers.  There was even a town Sheriff.  The kid’s area was lovely, a little small but what four-year-old would complain?  One Father’s Day I went there with my sister, Bernie, and dad, and she was maybe five at the time.  I thought it would be boring watching her go on kiddie rides, but in the end, we had a blast. 

The last time I went Bernie was performing with her dance class.  I took Mark, and we rode the rides and ate chicken fingers and watched Bernie and her friends tear up the stage.  He went on a very scary ride that gave me the heebie-jeebies just watching.  Then we went on the big swings, and I thought I was going to die.  I screamed bloody murder the whole time, certain that I was about to fly off the ride into space.  After that we went on some rides that were more my speed, and met up with Bern at my very favorite of all amusements, the Tilt-a-Whirl.

It was a good day.  It was always a good day at Fantasy Island.

But alas, the good times couldn’t last forever, so when I heard reports that they had begun selling off rides, I was heartbroken.  When the news came two days later that they were closed for good, I felt a part of my childhood slip away.  This is not the first time, either.

There was another park in my youth, this one across the border in Canada.  It was called Crystal Beach, and I looked forward to it every summer until I was five and it closed down.  (I know that seems weird that I would remember it so vividly given my young age, but I literally remember my Baptism at 6 months.  However, I don’t know what I had for lunch yesterday.  My memory is crazy.)  Sometimes around town you can still find the famous Crystal Beach suckers (lollipops, for you out-of-towners) and I will occasionally buy one if I see it; I like the butterscotch and peanut best.  The beach remains, but the park is long gone, and I miss it.

But not as much as I will miss Fantasy Island.

The only alternative for amusement parks now is Darien Lake, which is once again owned by Six Flags, even after they sold them in 2006.  Now, this is a big place, and it’s only getting bigger.  Which is a problem.  It doesn’t have the family feel Fantasy Island had.  It feels corporate and intimidating, and can take over a day to enjoy the whole park.  I suppose that’s what they’re going for, so people buy more tickets and stay longer, but at 60 bucks a pop, that’s not happening.  Hell, I can get tickets to FOUR Disney World parks for only about 30 dollars more.  And there’s no Mickey Mouse at Six Flags, just a bald guy in a bowtie (check out this insane commercial we used to be subjected to on a daily basis.)  Another issue I have with Darien Lake is its concert venue.  It’s just too far away from the city, yet everybody performs there.  And the parking is garbage.  I’ve been to concerts where the wait to get out of the lot is longer than the opening act.

In a nutshell, I don’t care for Darien Lake.

But now, it’s my only solution when I crave an amusement park.

No, that’s a lie.

I will find suitable substitutes.  Lawn fetes, church picnics, Fourth of July carnivals.  I will hunt down Tilt-a-Whirls and Scramblers and even the big swings.  I will travel south to my other favorite amusement park, Midway, which is still styled in its original fashion.  It’s like stepping back in time, and I love that.  I think I like that feeling more than the rides, as that is how I felt at both Fantasy Island and Crystal Beach.  Darien Lake is simply too crowded, and full, and new.  It has no charm, no whimsy.  And so, I shall pine for long-gone western shootouts and dismantled rollercoasters, and I will miss my little playland that gave me so many great memories. 

Fantasy Island.  So sad to see you go.

A Week of Worry

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even realize yesterday was Thursday.  I wasn’t feeling well, but not so bad that I couldn’t have updated, but I was so out of it that I didn’t even realize what day of the week it was.  So, happy Friday.

I don’t have a real topic today, so I will tell you a couple things that have been weighing on my mind this week.  First of all, there is my health.  I set up an appointment for Monday for a surgery consultation.  It looks like I will be getting a gastric pacemaker, provided I meet all the criteria.  I am both thrilled and terrified.  Thrilled because this may mean the end of my five-year long battle with my stomach.  Terrified because what if something goes wrong?  What if it doesn’t work?  I have been trying to keep these questions out of my head all week, but they creep in and cause me to panic.  For the first time ever, I actually had to call my doc for a Xanax refill.  I’ve had a panic attack every night this week, and it all stems from my health and worries about surgery.  Fortunately, Hubs has been wonderful, holding me while I cry I about it, reassuring me that everything will be fine, and reminding me of all the benefits of the surgery. Alas, I remain frightened.  I think it’s because I have tried so many things to make myself better and nothing has worked, so I am feeling like this won’t either.  Still, I need to do it, I need to hope for it to work, and I need to keep my head about me in the process.

Another thing on my mind, aside from my health, is my chapbook.  I sent an inquiry back in October to a publisher that I liked, and they replied in January and asked me to send along my manuscript for review.  They said I would hear from them in about three weeks.  I initially thought this was sort of a short reply time given that even when I submit singular poems I don’t usually hear back for at least a month.  But I figured it’s a small manuscript, so maybe they don’t need that much time. 

For the first three weeks, I waited patiently.  I reminded myself that no news is good news, and if they read it and didn’t like it, they would get back to me right away.  Well now it has been five weeks, and I am on pins and needles.  I am maintaining that it is a good sign that it’s taking so long.  Perhaps they are deliberating over it because they like it.  Perhaps they really like it and are drawing up papers before contacting me.  Or maybe they haven’t even read it yet.  Whatever the case, I am going crazy waiting.  This is my number one choice for publisher, as it is a small company in my city that has produced some poetry books I like.  Buffalo is having a poetry renaissance, and I am desperate to be a part of it.  When I started going to a local bookstore for poetry nights back in October, I was terrified.  My anxiety told me that no one would like my work, that no one would talk to me, that I would be alone and insignificant.  I can’t say I don’t still have those feelings, but I push myself to go each month because I am trying to overcome my insecurities.  And I will say it gets a little easier each time.  I am very much looking forward to this month’s reading, though I am having trouble picking a poem for the open mic segment.  I will likely read something from my chapbook, with the hope that putting it out in the universe brings it to life. 

The one highlight of my worrisome week is that Sahar is in town.  She is one of my dearest friends, and she lives in Kentucky, which I hate.  But she’s in town for about a month and we were able to go to lunch.  I am hoping to see her many more times before she returns to that hell-state.  Like Hubs, she knows just what to do to calm my worrisome head.

So, I walk into this next week with my head held high and my heart full of hope, but also worry.  I will see the doc on Monday and figure out what the plan is, and we will go from there.  Hopefully my worries will be unfounded, and I can face this surgery with courage. 

A girl can dream.      

Pajama Party

Last week I wrote about a lovely memory I have of my father.  Now I will write about my mother.

When I was a child, maybe 3rd or 4th grade, I had my first sleepover party.  It was a Valentine’s Day tea party, and my mother pulled out all the stops.  Heart shaped doily’s, pink and red streamers, the whole shebang.  I invited five friends to stay over, and we were up talking until 3am when my mother came downstairs and yelled at us to go to sleep.  I fell in love with sleepover parties that day, and asked her for several more as I got older.

Every party had a theme.  One year it was mid-January, so my mother made the theme “Winter Blues” and hung paper raindrops and snowflakes from the ceiling.  Another year was a pool party with a cake shaped like our pool complete with gummi rings for life preservers.  But the pinnacle of sleepover parties was the Murder-Mystery one.

My friend Jill and I got the idea one afternoon while drawing in her basement.  We had found some old manilla file folders, and we were making portraits of crazy people/monsters.  I was obsessed with murder mysteries when I was younger-my favorite movies were Clue and Murder by Death, and I loved Agatha Christie.  Jill said the pictures we were drawing reminded her of portraits you would find hanging in a creepy mansion somewhere.  “Have you ever been to a murder mystery party?  They’d be good for that,” she said.  And an idea was born. 

We took it to my mother, who was all about it.  She told me I could have five friends sleepover, but after Jill and I wrote the script we realized we needed at least 8 people.  So, we invited a couple extra girls to play the murder victims.  Once killed, the girls went home. 

Looking back, I regret this.  I wish I could have had them sleepover, too.  I feel terrible that I was essentially like “Come to my party, but then leave when I tell you to.”  But we were 12 years old and stupid, and thought it all made perfect sense at the time.

There were costumes, made by my mother and Jill, who was very into fashion.  (Side note:  she is now a seamstress, which surprises me not at all.)  Mom was a wealthy dowager, Jill was the maid, and I played the role of hostess.  My mother had no problem at all following script and playing along with us, and was as much a part of the party as any of my friends.  That night, after the mystery was solved (the maid did it,) we played truth or dare until the sun came up.  Then mom made pancakes, and my friends left, and mom and I cleaned up the mess.

That was my last big sleepover party. 

This past weekend my cousin G, who is ten, was with us.  She came for a sleepover on Valentine’s Day and ended up staying all weekend.  I lamented to Hubs that I was not my mother, and thus had no games or treats or decorations or costumes, and he was sympathetic but I don’t really think he understands because he is a boy, and all his sleepovers consisted of eating pizza and playing video games.

In the end, it didn’t matter.  I didn’t have to do a thing and G still had a great time, begging me to stay for just one more day.  When I dropped her off yesterday, she was sad.  It was kind of cute, and made me feel like I’m not quite the crap hostess I envision myself to be.  I’m never going to throw a party like my mother, but I’m glad of that.  The memories of the parties she threw for me, and the knowledge of how much time, energy, and money went into them, is something I cherish.  She gave me these amazing parties to carry with me, and instilled in me the love of a sleepover.  I still love sleepovers.  Just had one with Sahar in November.  Jaime and I used to have them all the time.  We should plan one.  I don’t care if I’m pushing 40, I am always down for a slumber party.

The Reading Room

I did not update on Monday, as I was sick still.  I am well now, but it is a peculiar health, one that seems extra fragile as I sip my Gatorade and eat my yogurt.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  Let’s talk about reading.

Once upon a time, I lived down the street from a library.  It was very tiny and I’m not sure if it was part of the county library system, but I have almost zero memory of it.  I could not have been more than three when it closed and the big one opened across the street.  It was the first brand-new building I ever set foot in, and I thought it was a castle.  My father walked me through the doors and I asked him, “Which book can I read?”

“Whichever you want.”

My little head exploded.  I knew I would walk out of there with picture books by the loads, but there was also the possibility of BIG BOOKS: the ones with no pictures, the ones for grownups, where the cover is the only glimpse into the magical coded world that lie inside.  I was only just learning to read but I found myself cracking this code a little more every day and could not wait to get my hands on one of those BIG BOOKS.  And here was my father, telling me I could read whatever I wanted?  I knew the underlying lesson there: I could read whatever I wanted, so long as I could READ.

So I read.  I read every picture book I could get my hands on.  And when I was proficient in those,  I moved on to others, like Amelia Bedelia.  Then Judy Blume’s, then the most of the Babysitters Club series.  I discovered my favorite genre, horror, though RL Stine.  Then, sometime around 5th grade, I started reading “actual” novels, meaning not meant for the teen or tween crowd. 

We moved, so my old library was replaced by another, and I spent many afternoons amongst its stacks, reading and learning.  I was never one to ask for help-I have always been terrible at it.  So whenever I had a problem, I went to the library, and I researched the hell out of it.  I did all my schoolwork there.  I spent hours perusing the shelves.  And now…

Now there is a library a couple blocks from the house but I never go.  I don’t need to.  I have all my information in my pocket on my phone.  I do like to go pick out a book or two every now and then but they usually languish unread on the bar while I hate-watch another episode of House Hunters.  It was my eyeball’s fault for a long time, but now I find I am just not concentrating on a book as I used to.  My New Year’s resolution was to read more, and my first book of the year was The Institute, and I’m only halfway through.  It’s a Stephen King book about kids with super powers.  I should have devoured that a month ago.

I wish I could read like I did as a kid, so voraciously.  I love seeing kids reading.  Sometimes the girls do and that’s nice.  My cousin Grace and I like to talk about books sometimes, too-she is ten and plugged into all things middle grade and YA.  Right now, she is reading some old favorites of mine, like Blubber by Judy Blume.  When I was her age I had Carrie in my hands for the first time.  Some might say a little much for a ten-year-old, but I knew what I think my father knew: You’ll read what you’re ready for. 

And reading made me ready for everything.

Monster Flu

I’m not dead. I mean, it was a rough go there. But I’m ok.

Monster flu took me out on Monday, hence no update. I still am stuck on the sofa, no longer vomiting blood or at the hospital needing fluids and morphine, but I am definitely down for the count. You would think that given my gastrointestinal perils I would handle this a little better, but that’s a hard no. I am a sniveling, whiny baby right now who is desperate for Hubs to get home and take care of her. So I’ve nothing to say this week, aside from telling you how important it is to wash your hands during flu season.

The Trauma Letters

While I am always willing to discuss my mental health, simply because I hate the stigma surrounding it, I do not discuss my trauma.  Most people who have suffered such do not like to talk about it as it can be triggering for their PTSD, because all trauma leaves its mark.  It’s a scar that you have to live with. 

Here is the long list of people I discuss my trauma with: my therapist.

So, on Wednesday, we’re talking, and she tells me that I should write some letters.  As a writer, I am intrigued.  As a human, I think this is a little cliché.  Still, I listen to her suggestions.  She says that it can be soothing to get all the feelings out.  Then you can either send the letter or destroy it.  Apparently burning things is cathartic, too.

I went home and I realized I’ve done this before.  I pulled up the letters I have written, and I read them.  I realized that they are flawed, because they lack what she tells me is my hidden problem: rage.  I am angry, outrageously so, and I have never had an opportunity to express that anger.  I feel scammed out of an emotion.

When I was younger, I encountered a situation in which I was told my feelings were not valid.  I was told to shut that shit down ASAP, and it left a terrible emotional scar, making me feel like all my emotions were unacceptable.  I still feel the effects of that today, as I peck out this angry little letter and think to myself “but I’m being so mean…”  But maybe mean is necessary sometimes. 

The letters I wrote were all explanatory, and expressed both difficult emotions and those I feel comfortable with, but there was no anger, and there was no pain, and I can’t ignore those things.  So right now, I am trying to write my anger away, and I don’t know where that will lead.

Will I send my letters?  I don’t know.  I want to, really, but I probably won’t.  I will likely leave them to rot on my computer until I am dead, because confrontation isn’t my thing.  Do I wish I could send them?  Of course.  But I am ruled by fear and anxiety, as I always have been.  Maybe someday those forces will become less intrusive in my life, but that day is not today.  Today I will write my letter, and I am sure I will have some residual feelings throughout the afternoon, but I will tuck it away with the others because I still have trouble embracing my anger.  Eventually I will learn to fix it and start to heal, because that’s what therapy is for, right?