Sunday, March 30, 2008

No Place Like Home

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
Subject: I think there will be a party

Hi I know you are busy I just wanted to let you know I think Dolores is going to have some kind of party while you are gone even though you said she was not allowed, I think so because just after you left this guy showed up at the door with a guitar case and tattoos on his face and he smells like Pabst Blue Ribbon and he said Hi I'm Snake where do we set up. Dolores told me he is here for a meditation group but I am not sure she is telling the truth. Please dont say I told you because you know how she gets.

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
Subject: Please advise.

Dolores, who is "Snake" and what is he doing in my apartment?

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
Subject: Re: Please advise.

Relax, cupcake. Snake is just his old prep school nickname from Groton. We know each other from my faculty days at Vassar. His specialty is viral marketing I've invited him to meet with my campaign managers to discuss party strategy and discuss the efficacy of new versus traditional media in the current political environment.

I see I must speak sternly to naughty little Harry about his tendency to exaggerate and jump to conclusions. Tsk, tsk.

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
Subject: Let me repeat myself.

Leave Harry alone.

If this "marketing discussion" results in a visit from the police, there's going to be hell to pay when I get home. No parties. 

And I thought you told me you were on the faculty at Johns Hopkins.

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
Subject: Re: Let me repeat myself.

I find your inferences insulting and unworthy of further note.

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
Subject: I am so mad!!

Hi I left my copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond in the bedroom and I was just getting to a good part and now Snake and Dolores have been in there with the door locked for like four hours and they keep giggling a lot and then he was playing Free Bird and she was singing so loud the concierge came up and pounded on the door and I had to answer and I am so mad!!! Please call Dolores and tell her to get out of the bedroom I want my book!!!!!!!!!!

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
RE: Sorry I missed your call!

Hello, you sexy thing. I'm so sorry I missed your call. Snake and I were just discussing the lessons to be drawn from Reagan's last campaign. We were in the middle of a role playing scenario (I was Margaret Thatcher) and my goodness, it got so intense I didn't even hear the phone ring.

I checked voicemail but there was so much static I'm afraid what you were saying wasn't clear. Do call again if it was important. Also, please tell Harry to stop interrupting us. I left plenty of food in the refrigerator and gave them all money to go to the movies. I think he's miffed at not being included in the meetings. So immature.

I hope you're having a lovely time with your dear grandmother. Won't you please give her my best? :-) :-) :-)

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
Subject: Now I am really mad!!!!!

Dolores is out of the bedroom now but she locked all of us in here and Snake is out in the living room and I hear a drummer and lots of other people and they are playing Fight for Your Right to Party and I just heard something break I think it was the kitchen table. Can you please call Dolores again and tell her to let us out I have to pee and we wanted to go see No Country for Old Men at the Cineplex. THIS IS NOT FAIR!!!!!!

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
RE: Hang tight.

I called the front desk. Somebody should be there in a few minutes to break up the party and let you out of the bedroom. Go ahead and take some money from the secret drawer in the base of the bust of Meg Swansen so you and the guys can get some pizza after the movie, okay? And leave Dolores alone, I'll deal with her when I get home.

DT: Saturday, March 29, 2008
RE: We are going to the movies yay

Hi buddy! We are going to the movies and the guys all say thank you for the pizza! But the concierge is on the sofa with no pants on doing the funky chicken with Dolores and Snake's band is playing Let's Get It Started but I think they already got it started because wait until you see what happened to the carpet, ewww gross :-(

I hope you are having fun in Pennsylvania!!!!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

On the Road Again

This is a dispatch from the the Panopticon Mobile Unit, reporting from base camp at Grandma's kitchen table. I'm in Pennsylvania for a brief spell, gathering bits of this and that to be fashioned into an article for Piecework.

Of all the houses I knew as a child, this is the only one with doors still open to me. The others are long demolished or sold out of the family. Grandma, bless her heart, won't budge and I don't blame her.

It's a sweet little place, barely larger (excluding the cellar) than my apartment in Chicago. The single floor has a kitchen, living room, bathroom, main bedroom and second bedroom so compactly organized that there's no hall; the rooms just open into one another. I know folks who have media rooms larger than this. But my grandmother raised three children here, by herself, on her income from sewing and cleaning houses.

Behind me, on the door from the kitchen to the porch, there's a Colorform in the shape of Charlie Brown. I stuck it there  in the early 1970s when I was three or four years old, to remind Grandma of me and show her I'd come back again. She's never taken it down, and I do keep coming back. These days, it's being away that's hard.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Strictly Entre Nous

I have two drawings due at Interweave tomorrow morning. I'm supposed to spend the day at the drawing board, living on handfuls of granola and pausing only to pee into a bucket. So don't tell them about this, okay?

I finished knitting the three pieces of Abigail's Norwegian pullover earlier in the week. This morning, I felt compelled to wash and block them in preparation for sewing and cutting the steeks. And then I felt equally compelled to take a picture and show you.

Baby Norwegian Blocked

I'm happy I decided to try out this sort of sweater on a small scale. It's fun as a barrel of Viggos, but I definitely need practice. Though my colorwork is fair-to-middling, there are passages I wouldn't want to submit for examination by a panel of feisty, armed Norwegians.

Alrighty, I'm going to go back to the drawing board. And if you squeal to Interweave, I'm sending Dolores to your house to deliver a lavishly illustrated lecture entitled, "Mary Had a Little Lamb: Fetish, Sensuality and the Erotics of the Modern Sheep" to your children.

Great Day

Well, zowie. After I pressed "Publish Post" and my recurring nightmare became public reading matter, I had a long moment of wondering whether I ought to delete it. As you know if you're a frequent visitor, this blog is seldom a venue for soul-baring. One ought to play to one's strengths, and frankly there are lots of people blogging whose naked souls have more to offer the reading public.

Still, I use this space to clear the occasional emotional blockage. It was indeed kind that so many folks not only indulged the momentary lapse, but also offered comfort, advice, and encouragement. And it's fascinating to hear from others who still break a cold sweat at the sound of "Clean up on Aisle Four!" over a fuzzy loudspeaker.

Today was a terrific day, spent in the company of yarn industry types (mostly independent shop owners, along with a sprinkling of manufacturers, distributors, and sales representatives) who gathered in Chicago for a conference hosted by Yarn Market News. I do illustrations for that charming and useful publication on a regular basis, and when they rolled into town on their Big Wheels they asked me and my little camera to come over and play.

I'm too zonked to do a full report with photographs and tap-dancing alpacas, but I'm too wired to fall asleep without first saying what a positive jolt it is to spend the day (and then dine well) in the company of people whose waking hours revolve around keeping us supplied with yarn, needles, and the sundry impedimenta of the fibery life.

I know well that not every LYS owner is a saint with an encyclopedic knowledge of Cast Ons of All Nations. Nor is every yarn shop the rose-covered cottage we might wish. But this group–they love what they do and are spending several very long days learning to do it even better. As they fly in the face of grim ol' American practicality by supporting creative work in the midst of a yawning recession, I salute them and wish them godspeed.

There should be a little drawing here of eighty shop owners storming the barricades with knitting needles aloft, or maybe raising a cable swatch over Iwo Jima; but when I start wishing people "godspeed" it's time to step away from the keyboard and go to bed. If my prose got any more purple it'd be on television group-hugging a chorus of child actors and singing "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitz." Feh.

Good night, y'all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bad Dream

At my age I really need to stop snacking on peanut M & Ms immediately before I go to sleep.

Lately I've been mostly successful at stemming the craving, but last night I fell down hard in that aisle at Walgreen's where the Easter candy is on sale. At bedtime it was nibble, nibble in between browsing Heirloom Knitting for a new Big Lace Project.

So I had a nightmare. It's one I have quite a bit, about once a month.

I was back at my first (and worst) job ever, stocking shelves at a forlorn supermarket in a depressing corner of upstate New York. I was paid minimum wage, minus the usual taxes plus weekly union dues that were equal to about 50% of my take-home pay.

The official job responsibilities were what you'd expect. I lugged boxes to and fro. I wrangled shopping carts that were determined to escape from the parking lot. I cleaned up spills, wielded a price gun with little skill and less enthusiasm, and suffered the insults of a supervisor five years my senior who had been rejected by Harvard (which he knew I was getting ready to attend) and was not happy with his lot in life.

He liked to give me the heaviest lifting to do, particularly as I was the youngest and smallest of the stock boys. Sisyphean tasks were his forte:
Move these thirty ten-pound boxes from this side of the stock room to that side. No, you can't use a cart. Carry them. Shoot, you just finished moving the whole stack? I just realized they shouldn't have been moved. Put them all back where they were. And do it faster this time. I'll be watching the clock.
Annoying, but honestly no worse than stocking shelves. And it was good for my biceps.

The night supervisor, however, was a genuine sadist. He was a guy from my high school who'd been on two dates with one of my best friends, an enormously pretty girl named Candace. She'd apparently spent most of those two dates talking about what a sweetheart I was. Then she told him to get lost. He was therefore not inclined to look upon me kindly.

After his unfortunate affaire de coeur with the lovely Candace, alarming things began to happen on the shop floor. I'd be pushing a cart through the stock room and suddenly a full, heavy box of canned food would land with an explosive CRASH on the floor next to me. I'd look up, and he'd wave from the catwalk. "Oops!" he'd shout, grinning impishly. "Must've lost my grip!"

Six-foot stacks of boxes would topple as I passed. Full pallets would zoom down the aisle and knock me flat. I'd climb a ladder to reach a high shelf and find myself heading for the floor. "Wow," he'd say, smiling down at me, "You gotta be more careful about where you set up, slick."

I learned very early in childhood that it was no good appealing to authority about stuff like this. Rumors aside, I don't know what it's like to grow up as a little girl. But when you're a little boy, you discover fast that asking for help with bullies does no good. You get one of two stock responses:
  1. You better learn to fight back.
  2. If you're gonna act like a sissy, you deserve what you get.
Neither solves the problem, but such is the world's disgust with a male child who doesn't tend to brutality.

So I said nothing, and kept my eyes open for runaway cans.

And then–and here is the scene that replays in my dreams–there was a late shift when the box crusher jammed. The box crusher was a big, green cage into which empty cardboard boxes were heaped. When the cage was full, the contents were pressed into a compact bale by the machinery, then tied with wires and ejected for disposal.

There was a huge sign on the side of this thing indicating that nobody under 18 was even supposed to touch it. I was 16, but when I asked questions about the sign the day supervisor told me to shut up and do what I was told. I became fairly proficient with loading, crushing, and bailing. It wasn't especially scary or difficult. If I pretended my boss was inside, it was fun.

But the night it jammed, the late shift supervisor ordered me to crawl inside and fix it. I was, he pointed out, the only guy in the building small enough to fit through the opening. And once I'd cleared the jam, I'd have almost ten seconds for him to pull me out before I'd wind up as Flat Stanley.

I told him to forget it. He persisted. He called over the other members of the night crew, none of whom were terribly fond of me, and they insisted I was being a faggot and a sissy.

"Get the fuck in there," said the supervisor, "or I'll fire your faggot ass on the spot."

I'm sitting here typing this, so I don't need to tell you I ultimately did not wind up in the crusher. But it took everything I had to stand my ground and say no. He told me I was fired, and I waited out the remaining hours of my shift in the parking lot. The next day, I swallowed my pride and appealed to the store manager, who was appalled by the whole thing and reprimanded the night supervisor, though he didn't actually fire him.

Of course, that just increased the rate of falling boxes, but I managed to survive the rest of the summer with only minor bruises and a whopping $250 in my bank account.

The nightmare is very weird in that I always get stuck in a sort of loop where my moment of indecision plays and replays. I stand there in my ugly apron as ten guys call me a stupid sissy faggot and try to get me to climb into that crusher. And in that moment, I honestly don't know what to do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Good Dog!

The 1,000 Knitters scarf is growing like a kudzu vine. There was another public shoot last night, at a meeting of the Windy City Knitting Guild.

This came, of course, hot on the heels of Saturday's shoot at Yellow Dog Knitting in beautiful downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It's a pretty shop; I took a few snaps during the interlude of calm before the doors opened.

It was evident within minutes that this was going to be an unusual day.

Here is Jaci, Knitter 0414, the first person in the chair. Note the headgear.

Yellow Dog Diva

No, Jaci does not habitually parade through town wearing a tiara. Turns out this one is shared among the august sisterhood known as the Yellow Dog Divas, who have achieved such status through a process shrouded in myth and mystery. All I can tell you is they seem to be a very, very happy group of women.

Even the non-divas at Yellow Dog are a jolly lot. Dixie, the owner, has a knack for turning customers into family. She issued a call and in they flocked, ready to knit.

Eau Claire Trio 3

Eau Claire Trio 4

Eau Claire Trio 5

Eau Claire Trio 2

Eau Claire Trio 1

Ironically, nobody said "Cheese."

These three came all the way from that other snowy state next door.

Eau Claire Trio 6

On the right is Nic, wearing the sheep yoke sweater she finished in the car so she could wear it for her portrait. But...hold one of the sheep listing slightly to one side? And do I And cigarettes?

Not Like the Others

Ah. That explains it. (Thanks for the photo, Liz!)

We had a steady stream of sitters from start to finish, but I nosed around the racks before I left. You know, just to be polite.

Yellow Dog carries handsome, hand-turned wooden needles made by local craftsmen,

Handmade Needles

and is also one of the fortunate few sources in America for Garnstudios yarns. I fell in love with this tweed.

Angora Tweed Yarn

I also got a crush on Dixie.

With Dixie

(I was powerless to fight it. She taught me Magic Loop and how to carry two colors in one hand, weaving the floats on every stitch, all in the course of one hour. Evil seductress!)

Sunday, as a bonus, I got to visit with the local spinning guild before it was time to head to the airport. My wheel has been neglected for far too long; here was inspiration to dust it off and get it moving.

Eau Claire Spinners

And then it was time to head to the airport. I sat at the gate working on the Primavera socks and thinking about how funny my life is these days. When you let an idea loose in the world, you never know where it's going to take you. If you're lucky, you might even wind up in Eau Claire for a little while.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Greetings from the Land of Nice

The sky is blue, the air is clean, and everybody keeps smiling at me. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

I'm "chilling," as the youngsters say, after yesterday's 1,000 Knitters public shoot at Yellow Dog Knitting. We had about 65 knitters work on the Scarf That Ate America. I'm still not adept at this blogging-on-the-road thing; I forgot to bring my card reader so a fully-illustrated report will have to wait. But here are a few observations.
  • Eau Claire is adorable, but not what you would call a metropolis. Martha Stewart could probably fit the downtown area in her backyard and still have room for a swimming pool. And yet I'd say 3/4 of the sitters listed Eau Claire as their address. This town probably has more knitters per square inch than anywhere else in the country.

  • The knitters in Eau Claire are very nice. Everyone in Eau Claire is very nice. The hotel staff are very nice. The lady at the used bookshop down the street is very nice. The lady at the bakery across the street is very nice. The writer and the photographer from the local paper are very nice. I have a feeling if I'd been mugged on the way to the shop yesterday, the mugger would have wished me a pleasant morning.

  • If you like meat, you can get it in Eau Claire. Last night after the shoot, my effervescent and charismatic hostess, Dixie, took me to dinner at a restaurant where I was able to order a hamburger with BBQ pork on top. Meat on meat. Love it.

  • And how, indeed, can I not love a town where a little guy taking pictures of knitters is literally front page news? (Thank goodness I just got my hair done.) I'm tempted to have my books and yarn shipped north and just stay here forever.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's a Knitter's Prerogative to Change His Mind

Have you ever started a project that absolutely should have worked, and then didn't? It just happened to me with the lacy Elizabeth Zimmermann baby sweater I'd started for Abigail, from the February chapter of Knitter's Almanac.

It wasn't the fault of the pattern. The pattern is delicious, classic Elizabeth. It starts out odd, turns strange and grows positively bizarre before what's coming off the needles finally reveals itself to be cleverly constructed and beguiling.

Neither was it the fault of the yarn: Jo Sharp DK left over from my Seneca Sweater and left over again from Abigail's Dragonfly Kimono. Susan loved the fabric in the latter, so I felt another little bijou in the same yarn would be a surefire hit. It's soft, lightweight, and firmly spun–it ought to show off simple lace to perfection.

In theory, perfect. In practice, more like a blind date where the two parties seem like a perfect match because they both love opera; but then one of them turns out to be a die-hard Wagnerian and the other one has a thing for Rossini and even before the salads arrive the waitstaff have to wrestle the butter knives away from them.*

So I frogged it just after I finished half an arm, rewound the yarn and let it sit. And then one morning, I woke up with an unaccountable urge to knit a sweater with cut steeks. Aside from a brief lesson on a swatch at Knitting Camp two years ago, I haven't climbed that hill.

By the time I got out of bed I'd decided that if Abigail could talk, she'd ask politely for a traditional Norwegian pullover, and by happy chance traditional Norwegian pullovers have steeked armholes. How could I say no?

So I picked up some coordinating yarn (Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light) at Arcadia Knitting and set off, with Elizabeth and Meg Swansen (via the Knitting Around book and video) as my sherpas.

It was extremely pleasant to zoom around the lower body, using both colors to create the tradition "lus" (lice) dotted pattern,

Lus Pattern

meanwhile daydreaming about what to put on the chest and shoulders. I've finished it now, and for a first attempt I think it will suit. The fabric is very slightly puckery, but I took care to strand the floats loosely across the back of the work and expect that a good wet blocking will smooth everything out.

Norwegian Pullover Body

Next, the sleeves. And then...the cutting. Yeehaw, baby.

This is why I knit, dudes. Adrenaline. Pure adrenaline.

*Based on a true story.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Rally 'Round Dolores

I didn't really want to hear the answer, but I asked anyway.

"Dolores," I said, "Why did the front desk just send up 400 yards of red, white and blue bunting?"

She was too busy talking on her Bluetooth to answer, but Harry chimed in.

"We're having a rally!" he said. "With cookies and balloons and speculating pundits and everything! What's a pundit?"

"Harry, shut up," said Dolores. "I can't hear what Mr. Gore is saying."

"Mr. Gore?"

"Yeah," Harry whispered. "He decided to throw his weight behind Dolores because she's the only candidate made entirely of natural fiber."

"Does he realize that's the only natural thing about her?"

Dolores shot me a look.

"Could you please," she hissed, "take this into the kitchen or something? I'm hammering out my stand on the environment. Go ahead, Al honey. No, nobody important, just some people I hired to set up the folding chairs. What are we saving this week, rainforests or whales? Both? Who the hell has that kinda time? Pick one."

The kitchen was full of cookies. Mrs Teitelbaum, smeared liberally with red and blue frosting, was attacking a lump of dough with my best rolling pin and humming "We Shall Overcome." I reached for a cookie and got a rap on the knuckles.

"Those are for members of the media only," she said. "You have to show me your credenza."

"Credentials," said Harry.

Mrs Teitelbaum bristled. "I don't care if this is a political setting," she said. "There's still no excuse for that kind of language."

I gingerly picked a sample off the pile. "What exactly is this supposed to be?"

"Well," said Harry, "Dolores wanted them in the shape of the Fibertarian Party logo but we couldn't find a sheep cookie cutter, so Mrs Teitelbaum used Rainbow Brite instead."

"And she made the eyes out of–"

"Olive pits," said Harry. "That part was my idea. We had bunches left over after Dolores's martini fundraiser last week."


The candidate herself bustled in. "Numbers," she snapped. "I want to know how many, and who. Gimme the big names first."

Harry riffled through his spiral notebook.

"Well, I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of people. We have 'maybes' from Aerosmith, Donna Summer, and the guy who played Schneider on 'One Day at a Time.' Julia Roberts says she still hasn't forgiven you for what you said about Mary Reilly to the Washington Post so forget about it. Laura Bush is a yes, but she'll be wearing a blonde bouffant wig and please remember to put 'Carmelita Dupree' on her nametag. And Mrs Teitelbaum's friend Rose is coming and says it's okay if you want to use the folding tables from the senior center, but they need them back the next morning for the poetry slam."

"Word," said Mrs Teitelbaum.

"This not good, " said Dolores. "I need a halo of celebs around me for the big speech at the end. Get on the horn to Julia's people again and tell them if she doesn't show up smiling in something sexy I'm going on 'The View' to talk about Dying Young."

"Check," said Harry.

"And did you go through the entire A list in my address book?"


"Who's left on the B list?"

"Winona Ryder, Anne Murray and Yo Yo Ma."

"Shit. Okay, if we can get Julia and Aerosmith that should fill up the frame pretty well, but I want one of those goggle-eyed Obama-style choruses weeping joyfully in the background. What's the estimated turnout as of this morning?"

Harry tap-tapped on his calculator. "Not counting you...eleven."

"Eleven hundred? I'm glad we booked the bigger party room at the Best Western"

"Um, no. Eleven. But with you it's an even dozen!"

"Eleven? How the hell am I supposed to demonstrate my overwhelming groundswell of support with eleven people?"

"Well, it's ten people, really, because I was counting Tinkles and he's a cat."

"He's very politically aware," said Mrs Teitelbaum. "Every time Mary Matalin says something on 'Meet the Press,' he throws up on the rug."

"Dandy," said Dolores, munching morosely on a Rainbow Brite. "I have a handful of nobodies, an incognito first lady dressed as Dolly Parton and a vomiting cat. This isn't a political rally, it's a new season of 'The Surreal Life.'"

Knitting Up the Cabled Sleeve of Care

Given the state of the household, knitting is more than ever a refuge. I'm almost finished with the first sleeve of the as-yet-unnamed Lorna's Laces Fisherman Yarn sweater. (The basic pattern is Elizabeth Zimmermann's percentage sweater from Knitting Without Tears, Knitting Workshop, et al.–like the Seneca Sweater, but this time I plan on saddle shoulders instead of raglan.)

I knew I wanted to put cables into this project, but I didn't want to knit a cabled sweater. Not yet. So I decided on a little Aran braid running up the outside of each sleeve from wrist to elbow, a simple four-row repeat from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury that appears far more complex than it actually is.

Lower Sleeve

If you look carefully, you'll also find I've worked the paired increases on top of the sleeve, a Joan Schrouder innovation I read about in Janet Szabo's fantastic book, Aran Sweater Design Putting the increases above instead of below apparently yields a more anatomical shape. I also love the look of the new rows branching out from the central motif.

Knitting the braid was so diverting that I reached elbow-length in a flash–and realized I hadn't considered the transition to plain stockinette. After frogging several half-assed solutions that I didn't even bother to photograph, I decided to try 'unbraiding' the braid so the individual ribands would appear to flow upward and melt into the fabric. It proved to be quite simple, really. An outward twist here and there, a sneaky purl increase to separate the two central strands, and voilĂ .


Eureka, dudes. Here was not only the smooth transition I wanted, but additional width (from the releasing of the previously cabled stitches) exactly where I needed it.

I'm not the first person to do this, but it was the first time I've ever done it and I figured it out on my own. It was one of those savory little knitting triumphs, the likes of which non-knitters will never know. Doesn't it just break your heart to think of those people?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Scribble Your Way to Clarity

It's Monday, so let's start the week off right with some housekeeping details.


First, the list of newly-confirmed 1,000 Knitters shoots for March and April wasn't all-inclusive; it included only several dates that had just landed on the calendar. The April 19 shoot at Wool Gathering in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is still very much on. Poor Jackie was slammed with e-mails asking whether it was cancelled. Nope.

If you're ever curious, the complete list of public shoots (past and present) is available on this page of the project blog.

Second, on a related topic, I swear I'm not deliberately ignoring London; Atlanta; New York City; Washington, DC; Seattle; or Portland, Oregon. could I? Here's the deal.

When I started 1,000 Knitters, it never occurred to me that the project might involve travel. I assumed I'd work on it slowly, with knitters sitting as they happened to visit Chicago or when I happened to be on the road with my camera for other reasons. So there's no underlying grant support (or small, private fortune) to pay for traveling shoots. They happen if/when I'm contacted by a host who feels the cost of sponsoring me is worth the fun of participation.

I've had requests to visit from bunches of knitters in the cities above, but haven't had any offers to host. As new shoots are confirmed (and now that March and April are settled I'm focusing on a few other offers for the future), you bet I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I appreciate all the support and the interest more than you can imagine.

Cover Me

Now, about the photograph vs. cartoon portrait question. The publisher's vision for the little mock-up they'll use for publicity–calls for a drawing rather than a photo. That's all. Interweave didn't tell me my actual face would break the printing press. They just asked for a different take on the concept. A cartoon portrait for a book of cartoons. I'm fine with that. They know what they're doing. They've sold more books than I have and they fairly ooze talent.

I never realized until I finding myself in the thick of it what a relief it is to not be in charge of every single thing about the book. I'd learned from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee that an author doesn't have control over many things you would think s/he might, including the title and the cover design. That seemed hideously unfair until I realized that when you're up to your neck in making the content, the last thing you want to deal with is the container.

Scribble Scribble

Speaking of the content, I got a really amusing question via e-mail the other day from somebody who wanted to know how many cartoon ideas I come up with every day. Heh. Heh heh. Heh heh heh.

Here's how I work. I draw every day, which does not equate to necessarily drawing a cartoon every day. I wish...oh, how I wish...that each morning around 8:30 a fully-formed idea would pop into my head, whereupon I would sit down at the drawing board with a cry of "Eureka!" and put it on paper. I would then send it to Interweave, which would respond with shrieks of laughter and the adjective, "perfect."

Also, I wish I had a pony and a second home in the Kentish countryside.

I draw every day, no exceptions, in small sketchbooks. Sometimes at the end of the day all I have are a buncha pages that look like this.


We call those "bad days."

But I have to do it because it's like calisthenics. The humorous and graphic faculties are mental muscles. If you exercise them, they grow. If you don't, they atrophy. And the mindless, stream-of-consciousness doodling does with surprising regularity lead to a finished idea. There's even one cartoon in the book that arose six weeks later from a nearly incomprehensible doodle one inch square.

Sometimes the doodles even look a bit like a finished cartoon, though I don't really know what the joke is. Here's an example.


If you have any idea what's happening here, feel free to chime in.

And now I have to go doodle.