Chilly the Snowman


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How to Love Snow Like a Kid:

AH SNOW. . . My feelings about snow have really evolved since my childhood. As an adult living in Maine, the snow piling up can feel like such a burden. Snowbanks are like obstacles you need to move out of the way or navigate your car around.

      But as a child… a big snowbank looks like hours of fun! It can be a slide, a sculpture, and of course a snow fort!!! I spent so much time playing out in the snow. I don’t even remember feeling that cold as a kid. The biggest obstacle between kids and playing in the snow, is putting on all the snow gear! Boots, hats, mittens, and of course... the dreaded snowsuit! Who can forget Randy from A Christmas Story “I CAN’T PUT MY ARMS DOWN!” I certainly had my fair share of falling in the snow and being unable to move from all of my cumbersome winter gear! So many things to put on and keep track of. My little brother lost so many gloves and hats that my Dad referred to the lost and found as his “locker”. But oh boy, is it worth it! There’s just nothing like playing in the snow.

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     This time of year many families are on break for the holidays. It can be really hard to get enough time outdoors when it’s cold out. But I think it’s always good for the body and the mind to spend time outside. I wanted to write a story for kids that would get them pumped about playing out in the snow. So bundle up! Get outside! Move and shake like you are Chilly!

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My brother Tony & I playing in the snow during the 1991 "Halloween Nor'easter"

 


Lawrence the Lighthouse


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How to Face Your Fears "Head-light" On:

"HI -YAH  LAWRENCE . . . " I just love this one. I have lived in Portland Maine for 10 years now. We are a little port city with an old working waterfront. The Portland Headlight has been guiding boats into Casco Bay since 1791. It is my favorite lighthouse to visit. When I made my living as a landscape painter, I painted this lighthouse dozens of times.

     The Headlight always looked like it was in a different mood. But mostly, I thought it looked lonely. The Lighthouse stays up all night keeping vigil, guiding boats into the harbor. Boats that have seen the whole world, but the Lighthouse never gets to leave its post. Sailboats get to leisurely float around. But the Lighthouse is always working. Even the “Working” Boats have a day off for the annual Lobster Boat Races. But the Lighthouse doesn’t get to participate. Always a boat guide, never a ride. Okay okay, I know I am getting all worked up about an inanimate object. And if you really stop and think, this Lighthouse doesn’t really have it all that bad. It gets thousands of visitors every year AND is the most photographed lighthouse in the world! Come to think of it, the Portland Headlight has more Instagram followers than most celebrities!

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     For all these reasons, I just had to write a story about the Headlight. Soon there will even be a book! A family member took me out on his 1968 Columbia Sailboat for a tour of Casco Bay. It was a beautiful afternoon and I was able to take loads of photographs of the Bay, the Boats, and the Lighthouse. These photos will be the background illustrations in the Lawrence the Lighthouse book. I can’t wait for you all to see it!

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Sailing around Casco Bay aboard the "Salt", watching the lobster boats and tug boats race around the harbor while "Lawrence" watches

 


Happy Birthday Maple


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How to Make Like a Tree & Leave Things Behind:

 MY FAVORITE CHILDREN'S BOOK IS . . . "The Lorax" by Dr Seuss.  I wanted to write my own story about trees. Even with some great inspiration, “Happy Birthday Maple” did not come easily to me, because it was not actually the story I set out write.

      The first story I wrote was called the ‘Tree Retreat’. It was about trees from all around the world, gathering up their roots and meeting at the top of the earth for the annual “Tree Retreat.” I know, not bad right? But as I was writing the story I realized there wasn’t much in it for kids. It became overworked and really preachy. It lacked joy, a magical spark. Man, when something ain’t working, it really feels like WORK!

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      After the 10th unsuccessful draft of the story, I realized I had to let it go. It was a really hard thing to do. I felt like a failure. How could I have wasted so much time on a story? Why couldn’t I salvage this thing?!!! I had to take a step back and have a chat with myself. . .

     Q: “What is the essence, the emotional core of the story?”

     A: “I want to tell a story that celebrates trees”.

     Q: “Who are you writing for?”

     A: “Little kids and families”

     Q: “What do kids like to celebrate?”

     A: “Their BIRTHDAYS!”

     Q: “How about a birthday party for a tree?”

     A: “BINGO!!!”

In this frame of mind, I wrote “Happy Birthday Maple” in one sitting. It was a joy to write. Didn’t feel like work at all.

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A Birthday with the trees!

 


Old Miss Angie Had a Farm


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How to Learn & Play Like an ANIMAL:

NOW THAT YOU'VE BEEN LISTENING TO THE SHOW FOR A WHILE . . you probably have noticed that I LOVE animals. As a child, I used to rescue mice from my cats in the middle of the night and “save” them in jars to set free in the morning. (Much to the chagrin of my parents!) “Old McDonald Had a Farm” was a song I adored as a kid. But I was never satisfied with the traditional farm animals. I wanted to know what a Panda would say, or a Penguin, or even a Zebra…

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      I also used to struggle with pronouncing certain sounds. I think a lot of other children do too. When learning to speak, certain parts of speech can be very difficult and even frustrating to master. 

      Old Miss Angie Had a Farm is my way of sharing a story AND learn some new sounds that can sometimes be a little tricky to pronounce. I hope you enjoy playing and singing along!

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It's always fun to meet a new animal friend!

 


The Shape Escape!


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How Inspiration Comes in All Shapes:

SOME STORIES COME FROM THE MOST UNEXPECTED PLACES! When brainstorming for a story idea, I chose the topic “shapes”. I sat down with a piece of paper and drew a circle, a square and a triangle. At first, they were empty. So I drew some faces on them. How do I bring these shape characters to life? What made me excited as a kid? Two things popped into my head, #1 Pee Wee Herman, and #2 The B52’s!

      1.) PEE WEE HERMAN:  I was never allowed to watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse at home but I would catch glimpses of it at other people's houses. That show bent reality. It felt like a dream. There was a talking chair that looked SO REAL! It made me wonder if chairs only talked in Pee Wee’s Playhouse or maybe the chairs in my house would talk too, when no one was looking! I would sneak around the corner to try and catch my dad’s brown corduroy recliner in the act! That show really made me question and test the world around me.

                 Inspiration can arrive in all shapes!

                 Inspiration can arrive in all shapes!

      2.) THE B52’S:  The album “Cosmic Thing” by the B52’s was one of the first CDs my parents got for their cool new CD player. I made them play the song “Love Shack” for me all the time and would dance around the living room. The word “love” means something different as a kid. It’s not a romantic feeling but instead, a feeling of blissful connection towards your friends and family. I thought it was SO cool that the people in the song were getting together and having a party with the people they loved! I wanted to turn my Dad’s tool shed into a “Love Shack”. But then one day I got my wish. In first grade, I went on a trip to California for my aunt's wedding. At the wedding reception the DJ put on “Love Shack” I was like “ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW? You guys know this song TOO?!!!” I grabbed the microphone and began singing dancing like a total maniac. Everyone was on the dance floor. It was just euphoria!  In my head, I was screaming “I LOVE EVERYBODY!!!!” I got to experience my version of a “Love Shack” and it was one of the most exciting memories of my childhood.

      I took that energy and those feelings from my childhood memories, and wrote the plot of “The Shape Escape”. Some shapes live in a valley. An Octagon, a Square and a Tiny triangle. A Big Bully circle is bouncing around wreaking havoc. They put it in time-out up in a fortress at the top of a mountain. But one day the circle escapes and the tiny triangle emerges as the unexpected hero.

      I wanted my shapes to come alive the way Pee Wee Herman made the objects around his house come to life. I even did my best Pee Wee Herman impression for the voice of the Circle.

      Then I wanted the story to end with a surprise dance party that celebrates the tiniest shape in the valley. I paid homage to the B52’s by singing a short original song for the triangle!

      This is one of my favorite stories because it came from such treasured memories. I hope the shapes delight you too!

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Singing "Love Shack"

 


Pee Wee Herman & B52's Videos:

 

 

The Flea Circus


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How Truth is Stranger Than Fiction:

ONE AFTERNOON I WAS LOOKING FOR A "STORY STARTER". I began by searching for songs in the public domain. "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" was a catchy tune I had enjoyed as a little girl. But I wanted to take something old and give it a twist. What about fleas? I had heard of a flea circus but I never understood what that reference was all about. So I did a quick Google Search and was BLOWN AWAY by the results . . .

A  flea circus : "The Go-As-You-Please Race, as seen through a Magnifying Glass", from  St. Nicholas Magazine , USA, 1886

A flea circus: "The Go-As-You-Please Race, as seen through a Magnifying Glass", from St. Nicholas Magazine, USA, 1886

There was such a thing as an ACTUAL FLEA CIRCUS! . . . Seriously!!! The earliest Flea Circuses date as far back as the 1500's!!! Watchmakers would demonstrate their skills by constructing tiny harnesses out of gold wire and tying it around the neck of a flea . . . Seriously!!! The fleas would then be tethered to a variety of props and "perform" by walking or hopping around with the prop in tow. Fleas have been known to pull miniature carts or operate teensy-weensy Ferris-wheels that are spun by a running flea... SERIOUSLY!!!! 

I looked at pictures of these flea circuses for hours. I continue to be impressed by these little creatures. Yes, fleas bite, and I would NEVER invite them over to my house as dinner guests. But I would certainly cheer them on at a Flea Circus!

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Flea-Nomenal!