Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Monday, November 7, 2022

I am Writing.

 

It’s NaNoWriMo

For me it’s NaNo(re)WriMo. 


I have a little logbook. 


I have an eighty thousand word manuscript to use as a starting point.


And I have many-pages-long document full of notes from a Very Sharp Editor. These notes cut deep, and I found them to be very frightening for a long time. The notes (very rightly) pointed out some problems with the narrative that were just so dreadful I would just sink into humiliation at the thought of opening the manuscript. I wanted to just pretend the book didn’t exist. 


But it did exist. It does exist.


I have a little blue drugstore notebook that Denver bought me when I was visiting. I’ve used it to re-outline the whole story, longhand, bird by bird. 


I’m writing. 



































Wednesday, June 8, 2022

They Sprout When You Least Expect Them

THING ONE:

I had a birthday the other day (I try to keep it to one a year). Early in the day I ran out to do a few errands in town and I popped by the post office to check my box. 


Setting up a PO box was a good decision. It’s been a source of joy and little surprises. There are letters from young readers, but also, sometimes, heartfelt notes from parents, educators, librarians, and booksellers. These are the unexpected encouragements—the little reminders that my stories really *are* being read out there in the Big World.


When I checked my box on my birthday there was a key. A key! A key means there’s something in the package locker (I have a Very Little Box). Inside the package Locker I found a box that looked like this:
































And inside the box was a note that said “Happy Birthday!” 


And there was this:






























A perfectly sculpted little onion head from Mighty Jack. 


So thank you, dear reader, for making my day.


THING TWO


I’ve been in one of my Very Circus-y Moods of late—practicing some of the old tricks and sketching ideas for small scale stage shows and just generally thinking in terms of calliope music and tattered finery. In the midst of these revelries I stumbled on this video of David Dimitri’s One man Circus and I think it’s absolutely charming:





Wishing you a day of subtle surprises. 




Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Framing Story






















 This is a print of an early drawing of Leonardo’s that I bought when I was 16 years old (probably only a few years younger than he was when he drew this). I got it in the gift shop of the Uffizi gallery in Florence and it’s been rolled up in a tube ever since. I’ve carried her with me from house to house for— 

…well, for half a lifetime, really.


Just the other week I had her framed and, somehow, it was the perfect moment. 


My tiny studio has been steadily accumulating talismans, totems, and charms. Everywhere I look there are mementos full of meaning. Stories fill the nooks and crannies.


And, so far, there’s still room for me. 


*wee Ben c. 1995


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Whistle Sister

 Here is a video of my sister and my nieces, recorded behind the old forge at my parents place in Indiana. This video made my day.


Yesterday I took a walk at the land near the river during that last breath of twilight and watched a barn owl drift like a slow ghost over a field of fireflies. It turned silent figure eights, dove into the grass and resurfaced. It passed close enough to me that even in the lost light I could clearly see it's dark alien eyes and tiny beak. 

I played a song for Ida and then drove home in the dark.


*edit: How did I miss typing the word "owl" in the first draft of this post?

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

More Praise for Used Books

Tony has been reading a lot of Terry Pratchett, and so when he suggested that I would particularly enjoy Small Gods of course I picked up a copy. Because Tony knows. 

I looked at Blue Plate Books first, but their Pratchett selection was startlingly lean. So I moved on to Thriftbooks.com and only a few days later a little green package showed up in my PO box. It gave me that special PO Box thrill. I'm always thrilled when things show up in my PO box, even if they are things that I specifically ordered in a state of absolute sobriety.  




See, the thing I love about buying used books is that sometimes you get *extra stories*. Not always, but sometimes. Every so often a pre-owned book offers you such a tantalizing snippet from another person's life that you're taken off guard. It’s the wonder of a sudden intimate look into lives that will never, ever intersect with yours. The world gets a little bigger and a little smaller at the same time.


Here’s the inscription I found on the title page of my copy of Small Gods:




I will always wonder about Jason. And about Jason. And about sweet Tasha (that intelligent, zany nut). Did Jason-2 and Tasha stay together? Was Jason-Prime a previous boyfriend? Is that what it means to be elite? To have dated Tasha? Where are they now?


I'll almost certainly never know. But I like to imagine that all four of us (Jason, Jason, Tasha, and me) all share a love for Terry Pratchett. Just like Tony. 


<slaps knee repetitively>


Best of luck and lots of love,


--Ben

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Walker

 It’s the most frequent scribble in my notebooks, that little analogue that is Ben-but-not-Ben. Always walking, always thinking. Often head down. Frequently with a satchel or bag. A wanderer. A traveler. 













































































































Of course it’s nothing new to say that the legs the the brain are connected, that walking and thinking go hand-in-hand. But for me scribbling completes the trifecta, the Creative Trinity. 


Move the legs, move the brain, move the pen. 


And repeat. 


The legs wander, the brain is messy, the lines are crooked. But if you ask me that’s where the real beauty lies.


So keep wandering.


Keep thinking.


And, if it’s your thing, keep scribbling.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

A Thoughtful Leo

 

“Tell me if anything was ever done... Tell me... Tell me."*







































                        *a repeated phrase in his notebooks.



Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Story of the Fox (1937)

 Today I sat down to close some browser tabs. You know the ones—you find something that makes you think “oh, oh, that’s interesting. I will share that somewhere” But instead of sharing the link or bookmarking the site you just keep the tab open. Any day now you’ll get back to it. But you don’t. You keep the tab open for months. And when you finally think things are getting just too ridiculous you sit down meaning to close tabs and then, somehow, you have even more tabs open. 


Well, this time around the first tab, the one that’s been open for ages, was something I’ve been meaning to share here. Last October I posted a Youtube link to a 1920 film called Der Golem. Sometime after that I happened upon this fantastic 1937 stop motion film recounting the original Reynard stories. It’s wonderful:





I hope you enjoy it as much as I will enjoy having one less tab open on my computer. 


And while we’re on the subject of Reynard, here is a look at a close-to-final version of the title page for Reynard’s tale:








































This illustration originated as an attempt at a cover, but the final cover will be a little different. I liked this picture, though, so we moved it to the title page. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Sweet Drolatic Dreams

A very peculiar book has recently caught hold of my magpie mind. I discovered it thought the Public Domain Review's Instagram account. It’s a book from Renaissance France, right around the time Montaigne was kinda-sorta inventing blogging (well, okay, inventing the rambling personal essay). The book is called The Drolatic Dreams of Pantagruel and it’s so wonderfully weird and I love it.

Published in 1565, Drolatic Dreams is just a big parade of goofy-ass monsters that look like they crawled out of Hieronymus Bosch’s ears after a hard night’s drinking with H. P. Lovecraft and Alexander Dumas (there's a swashbuckling, cavalier look to many of them). There’s no text beyond the introduction, just creatures galore. 


It all just goes to show that weird books and zine culture were right there with everything else in the wild early days of publishing. 


You can read more about the book here, and you can flip through the whole thing here.* 


I’ve already copied out a couple of the creatures in my notebooks (sort of a #drawthisinyourstyle). Here's one:











































































One of the best things about finding this book is that it felt like a missing piece for one of the weird side projects I’ve been slowly (slooowly) fiddling with over the last year. Everything suddenly snapped into focus and the story felt more alive. That’s a good feeling.


But more on that later…


*For some reason I think leafing through the Drolatic Dreams pairs well with this playlist based on the travels of Ibn Battuta.