Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I need help with my hippness

I've never been one to use slang; I won't even try. Certain words, phrases, and clauses simply won't roll off my tongue, and sound right. Words like dawg or homie, phat or imbusticated, would quickly reveal the dufus within me. Lame? Let's roll!

The first time my daughter used the word crunk, she almost got slapped. "Who you callin' crunk," I said in defense? I remember old-school slang like burnt when someone got — well, imbusticated. Cold-blooded was bad and bad was good. I remember a time when the word cool just wasn't so cool. And, my daughter's high school teachers were all gay, according to her, when in fact, I knew some were not.

Now, with blogging comes a whole new lexicon of online slang, and I hate to admit: I don't know what some of ya'll are talkin' about. So I'm making this plea: help a brotha get his blog-cool on.

Peace-out, on the cool tip.<----(see what I mean? A brotha's a dork!)

Here are some acronyms, or blog-slang I've come across on ya'lls blogs. Help me, I'm clueless. WTF? <----(which rhymes with truck)
Add any others you can think of to the list, but please keep it clean, if you can.

OMG — I think I've got this one. Oh My Gosh!
LOL — Laugh Out Loud, of course

Cool web thing: I don't know how they did it, but it's rad. Wait till it loads, click "start" then click on the screen and hold down your mouse.
Unrelated thought for the day: An interesting thing I pondered while listening to Rush today (paraphrasing): Conservatives tend to live according to their core convictions, their belief system. Liberals tend to live according to how they feel, right or wrong, at an emotional level. Hmm.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Kid-lit Tuesday

Her way with words fascinated me. "Baby" this, and "sweetheart" that. Her sharp wit, her boundless wisdom, swept a brotha off his feet. I could have spent the an entire day wallowing in her use of words and her peculiar New Orleanean dialect. Her effervescent humor tickled me right down to my bones.

Yes, while speaking in Tampa last month, I met a woman. How will the wife ever trust me again when I travel alone to speak in faraway places? What will she say when she see's this photo of me, hugged-up close to this woman?

"Who's the old lady in the funny glasses and hat?"

It's children's author, storyteller and speaker Colleen Salley. I first met this multi-talented author at the Tampa airport as she sat in a wheelchair being waited on, hand and foot by a genial airport attendant. We exchanged niceties about our travel experience thus far, then headed for the shuttle van. As we approached the shuttle and stopped in front of the door, Ms. Salley gets up out her wheelchair, walks to the front seat, climbs in and sits down. I'm thinking, "She walked! I've witnessed a miracle!" But, I didn't say a thing. I just took my seat and wondered to myself about this curious event. But one doesn't have to question Colleen, 'cause she offers an explanation and opinion on practically everything.
    "I never show up at airports or hospitals unless I'm in an ambulance or a wheelchair," she explains in that heavy Louisiana drawl.
    "Show up at an airport walkin' and you're on your own, they'll treat you rudely," she says cutting her eyes at me. "But in a wheelchair, they'll practically fall at your feet with service."

Colleen delivered a gut-busting keynote address at the Pathways to Literacy conference last month. She delighted us all with her vast knowledge of the children's book biz, and she intertwined her presentation with comical anecdotes, book recommendations for teachers and librarians, and gave solid advice for authors and illustrators.


Blogger Kim, One Over-Caffeinated Mom made the suggestion that I show how the cover artwork for THE HIDDEN FEAST has progressed. Well, I had planned to do that, but in all the craziness of painting, presenting, blogging, graduating, grandfathering, daddying and husbanding, I forgot. But, with my publisher's permission, here's a look at the final painting:

So far, I've used a slightly different style for every children's book I've illustrated. Styles have ranged from cartoony to realistic, stylized to naive. Some in the business would advise against that. They'd make their argument that an artist style is their name brand, their identity and that using a different look only confuses book buyers. Maybe so. But every book requires at least seventeen paintings. I'd get bored if I had to use the same. exact. look. over. and. over. for. every. single. solitary. book. (Ok, Tiff, I stole that from you) Besides, I haven't won any major awards for my illustration. When I do, maybe I'll stick with that style.

For THE HIDDEN FEAST, I tried to get away from such a tightly rendered look. With my deadline practically cut in half (this was originally a 2007 release, I think), I decided to go for a style that would be a better fit for the time allowed. For this, I loosened up and went with solid colors and bold outlines. The effect is almost that of a stained-glass window, however maintaining the playful animated feel of the animals. Due to the loss of data from my digital camera, you may not be able to see the texture in the paintings. I mixed in a liberal amount of glazing medium which allows for building up of several transparent layers of paint which also gives a thick, caked-on quality to the final art. So far, I'm very happy with how these are turning out. But I have decided not to read reviews this time around. I've personally found children's literary critics to be more destructive than helpful.

Quote for the day; as per my wife: I gotta pray for you and your diet of sex, beer and cheesburgers. My response: who don't like sex, beer or cheeseburgers? Pray, but pray for abundance.

For those who inquired about my son, his penny and his booty, it's alright. He just dropped a penny in his underwear.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Monsters fly

I am a brotha known for recreating myself. I like change. From a high-top fade to back-lenth dreadlocks, sure as the seasons change, so does my hairstyle. The most noticible change came when I started working out during my mid 20s. At 123-pounds, I started working out at the gym, and within a just a couple of years I had put on an additional 30 pounds of muscle, and transformed myself into a competition-level bodybuilder(natural, bodybuilding for skinny people). I started receiving double-takes from people who had'nt seen me in years. I not only looked different, but I felt like a new person. Writing has changed me, too, in much the same way. I was sort of aloof, quiet and observing, not focusing too much attention on anything besides the art project at hand. Writing causes me to stop, pay attention, and to take notice of the world around me. I now find myself in a continued search for a story, even in the mundane. For Instance:

Like son, like father

I strapped the son into his carseat, testing the taughtenss to be sure he was securly strapped in. I pushed down the lock on the door, then slammed it shut. "KaBlam!" My raggedy truck can make such an awful noise when closing the door, and since the latch needs replacing, I have to slam it with practically every muscle in my body to get it securely closed. The experience of getting my son dressed and transported to day care is an adventure in itself, and this day would be no different. As I walked away from his door, I thought I heard a faint sound, a cry for help, but the sound was much too faint, so I didn't pay it much attention. I continued around the front of my truck and opened the door.
    "Ahhh! Daddy, Daddy-Daddy! Woooo-Wooo! Ahh!" the son is screaming, vigorously flapping his hands and slapping the air all around him.
    "A bee, a bee! Ahh! A bee! The terror in his face signaled a terror within me, but in these kind of situations, I don't think, I react. I jumped in the car and grabbed at his seat belt in an attempt to release him. I got whacked in the face a couple of times from his futile attempts at warding off this unwanted foe. Just as I get him loose, I heard it buzz toward my ear, around my head and it passes my eyes. The frantic pitter-patter of my beating heart stopped abrupt in the instant my eyes met our enemy. It was a fly. And a tiny fly at that.
    "Man!" as I call him. "It's only a fly, not a bee. A fly is not going to hurt you," I'm yelling, irritated at him for almost giving me a heart attack. I mean, If I'm going to have a heart attack, I'm pretty good at doing my own stupid stuff to cause one. The fly continues buzzing in circles around my head and out the open door. "Doggit, is he some kinda girl?" I'm thinking to myself.

Fast forward two weeks later...

It's shortly past 2 p.m. and I'm on my way to work. My ever-growing waistline catches wind of a char-grilled aroma as I pass the corner Burger King. Now, the last thing my ever-expanding waistline needs is a burger. But try telling my waistline that. The beauty in the aroma of a char-grilled burger had awaken him, like a sexy lady in a too-short pink mini skirt, and now he and my brain were momentarily at war. The brain must have lost the fight because suddenly all three of us, my brain, my waistline and my truck were making a U-turn headed for the drive-through window of that Burger King restaurant.
    "I'll have a Whopper with Cheese, a large fry and a diet coke," I made my order with no hesitation in my decision. I then pulled up to the cashier window. I'm practically salivating at the thought of the treat that awaited me. I made the transaction and the cashier hands over my food. That's when I heard it.
    "Bzzzzzzz-zzzzz" A low pitched buzz, probably from...A BEE! Probably a wasp! Maybe a hornet! I dropped my bag and it crashed to the floor, it's contents of french fries and ketchup packets bursting all over into an already mass of trash that should have been thrown out long ago. I started flapping my hands at the air, waving and smacking and hitting at this unseen foe. I could hear this rascal buzzing behind my head, the vibrations from its wings pounced on the back of my ears sending my hands aflutter in a panicked reflex. That's when I realized, I was trapped. My seatbelt latched closed, and my door buttressed against the frame of that drive-through window. I didn't want to make a fool out of myself by climbing over the arm rest, and jumping out the passenger side door, but I'll climb before I get stung in the head by an oversized creature wearing a yellow jacket. I jutted forward toward the door ready to make the fool of myself, probably the bigger fool than what I already appear to be. Then I heard it again, it buzzed toward my ear, around my head and it passed my eyes. The frantic pitter-patter of my beating heart stopped abrupt in the instant my eyes met my enemy. It was a fly. And a tiny fly at that. The fly continues buzzing in circles around my head and out my open window. I smiled at the cashier, picked my food up off the floor. Thanked him. Bit my tounge.

Before I stared blogging, I wouldn't have given either of these situations a second thought. And surly wouldn't have written about them.

Quote for the day: As per my son: "I put a penny in my booty and I can't find it." I hope this means he lost a penny in his shorts, or this could be a problem.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Just minutes before...

...I sunburned my face, on a Saturday afternoon at the neighborhood pool. I told the wife I wouldn't be bloggin' on this afternoon, or on this day at all for that matter, of our 12th year wedding anniversary. I'm normally a man of my word. So shhh.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Little boy stuff

I have two gigs. Gig number one is spent illustrating children's books. Gig number two is spent at the newspaper. I work a rotating schedule at gig number two. This month, that means working nights. Nights, for me, mean coming to work at three in the afternoon and getting off at about ten-thirty or eleven. Since the wife works a relatively normal 9 to 5, I don't get to spend as much time as I would like with her or my son. She will often stay up and wait for me, but the son is almost always in bed at that late hour. Means, besides weekends, I only see him in the morning. I wake him up, oversee his shower and help him get dressed. Unfortunately, to the disdain of my second momma, Dr. Laura, both the wife and I have to work full-time J.O.B.S. So, after getting him dressed, I take him to daycare before returning home to illustrate books.

Throughout the day, I miss him. I miss his overuse of "Daddy- daddy- daddy," his unrelenting barrage of questions, his nonstop request for drinks of water. "Can I have some water? Can you get me some juice? Can I have another cookie? I gotta go to the pottie!" I think he knows I miss him when he's gone, so he leaves behind, little reminders strewn all over my truck. And since I rarely clean my ride, I now have quite an interesting collection of little-boy memorabilia. Here's a sampling of my treasure:

Chocolate chip cookie crumbs matted into the carpeting adjacent to the mold I have growing just beneath the passenger seat (no, I'm not one of those guys that warships his ride); A fossilized chocolate chip cookie; A tootsie roll package. (when I was a kid, tootsie rolls came in one color — brown); Several dried-up orange peels on those days after the wife let me have it for buying him Krispie Kremes for breakfast; A blue parachute guy, sans parachute; An empty package of Capri Sun; An Austin Energy key-chain flashlight which he insisted upon shining in the barbers eyes while he tried giving him a hair cut; Another little blue thing I have yet to identify; One of two of the plastic lions he owns from his Noah's Ark collection (he seems to like lions, kings of the jungle. Am I reading too much into it?); A Jimmie Neutron Hotwheel (he's a scale-model hotrod mobileophile); Two Robots soft candies; A couple pieces of yarn from a school project. He still hasn't mastered using glue very well; An unidentifiable pink thing; His "cool man" sunglasses, sans the lenses; His blue "cool man" glasses with the lenses; A frosted flake, he doesn't like healthy; A french fry that's probably mine; Some fruit loops (apparently, not big with Saddam); Some Cracker Jacks...well, one Cracker Jack (kids these days just don't like Cracker Jacks, not even with the prizes); A yellow happy-face ball; A dead dandelion (he likes picking flowers and giving them to me. I hold on to them and when he's not looking, throw them on the floor); A Vegas-style plastic slot machine; Another Hotwheel (like father, like son); and a few pennies he likes collecting off the floor, although he prefers "the big ones" (quarters et al. )

Unrelated thought for the day: It will be so cool having my blog featured in the Texas Writer's League's 800+ member newsletter next week. They even referred to me as a writer in an email exchange. Guess, I'll have to clean up my act for awhile and blog on something sensical. Maybe. NOPE!

Word of the day: et al.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Encouraging feedback

I came in to work (remember, my full-time gig is at the paper) yesterday to discover this letter to the editor, clipped from the paper, on my desk. It came as a response to the "Eyes of a child" piece that ran in this past Sunday's newspaper. Needless to say, these comments blew me away. You wouldn't believe the negativity surrounding a brotha's writing endeavors as related to this blog, and the YA memoir I've been writing. Sheez, you'd think I took up naked bungee jumping or co-ed mud wrestling. Damn, on second thought, those sound freakishly fun!

It's this type of positive feedback — not only from letters like this, but from comments posted here — that give me confidence in further pursuing my writing endeavors. I thank you all for your support, and I thank God for infesting me with this writing bug.

Unrelated thought for the day: Honest to gosh, I have nothing against a naked lady brandishing a microphone but, come on guys, aren't you glad the E network cancelled the Howard Stern show? Degrading.

An observation: I know a guy who snores fairly loud...while awake.

A plea: Forgive me guys for not visiting your blogs in awhile, I'm under an ugly deadline trying to finish the illustrations for this next book.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Devas T. is a grandpa

Charles Anderson III. You'll notice the names Devas, Donald and Tate are all conspicuously missing from his title. At least they didn't name him anything ghetto-french. I don't know his middle name, how long he is or how much he weighs. Give a grandpa some more time to get used to the idea that his baby just had a baby. There, I finally said the word Grandpa.


Kid-lit Wednesday

Anxious children's writer: Hey man, I thought this blog was going to be about children's illustration, writing and publishing. What's all this about drumlines, demon dogs and duck attacks?

Devas T.: Well, this blog WAS about children's writing/illustration and still IS. Since I have a short attention span, I am easily distracted. I tend to write off topic most days. But, since Steve Neubaur over at Texas Writer's League is considering running a story about my blog in their 800-member newsletter, I thought I should blog about something halfway — er, mostly — literate today. Here's some tips I ran across from purveyors of quality kid-lit, and what they are blogging about:

On the subject of staying focused:
Susan Taylor Brown, author of CAN I PRAY WITH MY EYES OPEN? talks about staying focused on your work. She discusses the importance of becoming a better writer and not allowing reviews and big-money advances to distract you from your craft.

On the subject of "voice":
Children's writer, Rinda M. Byers blogs about the literary terms "style" and "voice." She offers a look at the improper uses of the words. Rinda also offers input into my review of LITTLE BLACK SAMBO, from a differing vantage point.

On the subject of reading:
Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of INDIAN SHOES, reminds us how important it is for good writers to...READ! "Reading counts as writing time. It is also the best, most painless way to improve your craft." --Cynthia Smith

On the subject of writing for YA:
Greg Leitich Smith, author of TOFU AND T.REX (July, 2005) offers thoughts for beginning novelist. He addresses the question: Do you have to "dumb down" the vocabulary when writing for children or young adults.

On the subject of graphic novels:
Anastasia Suen, author of too many books to even try to list, turned me on to the book, Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel : Everything You Need to Know to Create Great Graphic Works by Mike Chinn. I'm personally not into graphic novels, but I think Luke Cage over at Splinter Cell would make one hell of a graphic novelist. Check it out, Frank, if you get a second.

On the subject of adjectives:
Mark G. Mitchell, author/illustrator of Raising LaBelle, who currently has no website or blog, but promised to let me know when he does, offers this advice at last weeks TWL conference: allow only one adjective per manuscript page. Beginning writers often make the mistake of using too many adjectives and adverbs to decorate their words. Instead use stronger nouns and verbs.

Example: Devas T. is an extremely slow reader

Better example: Devas T. reads like a turtle.

Extremely and slow are not very exciting adjectives. Turtle makes for a more interesting, stronger noun.

British crime and literary fiction author, Alex Keegan gives more advice on the subject.

Website highlight:
What man has never dreamt of owning a turbo-charged, monster car with gobs of horsepower and pipes with intercoolers — and stuff? Ok, I never have. But my boss has, and the brotha built his own engine from scratch. And he blogs about it.
"So," you're asking yourself. "You're highlighting your bosses blog? Talking about his car engine and horsepower and stuff. You tryin' to use your faithful bloggin' buddies to brown nose in front of your boss?"

Of course I am. I'm up for a performance review. And a brotha could use a raise. So send him a comment and tell him you like his engine. Mention that Devas T. sent ya.

Word of the day: purveyour

Monday, June 20, 2005

A drumline in Austin

To celebrate Juneteenth, the wife bought us some tickets to Austin's second annual Alvin Peterson Battle of the Bands and Drumline competition this past weekend. I had no idea what a "battle of the bands drumline competition" meant, but this being Austin, the so-called "live music capitol of the world," I figured it would be another one of those imitation R&B/jazz/soul music-type festivals that's usually held on sixth street, downtown. It wasn't. As we pulled into the parking lot of this eastside Athletic stadium, the first thing I took notice of was the large number of "us" in the parking lot. Us, referring to black folk. Plenty of synthetic hair weaves, over-sized basketball shirts and skimpy booty shorts. Now, I love my peepz, but I'm a small town Iowa boy. I'm not used to any event with alot of "us" in attendance. So, at first I'm feeling a bit squeamish. I mean, with all due respect, in my past experience, a large number of "us" gathered in an outdoor venue, with temperatures above 90-degrees resulted in one of three things: a church revival, a fight, or a shooting. Sometimes all of the above. And I was in the mood for none of the above. But I did my best to approach this evening with an open mind. Once I discovered the BBQ turkey legs, Pizza Hut pizza and hot dogs, I loosened up. Turned out to be a very nice evening.

This experience, a new one for me, was off the chain. If you've seen the movie Drumline, it was very similar, just on a smaller stage. The energy was high and the percussion got my son up out of his seat marching in line, bumping his butt in rhythm, annoying everyone within a 10-foot radius of where we sat.

These large bands made up of low-pitched tubas and high octave trumpets pierced the air above our heads with familiar R&B old-school tunes, new-school hip-hop as well as traditional classics. The drumlines played in sync while juggling drumsticks, call-and-response chanting and performing breakdance style moves.

I don't know the history behind drumline competitions, but this style of marching band music and drumline was surly born, or at least modified by the African American community. The style of music, the dance steps, the acrobatic showmanship gave clue to that.

All the bands gave excellent performances. They travelled from schools as far away as Memphis, Tennessee and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This was the Austin All-Star's first time competing. They made an outstanding performance, and were probably one of the best in terms of performing technically difficult routines.

The problem, in my opinion, was that in this one example, diversity didn't help them. As I said before, this "style" of marching is obviously born in the African American community. The Austin team had probably less than six African Americans on the team. Although they performed at a high level, they were missing one key ingredient to compete against drumlines out of Baton Rouge and Memphis, predominantly African American lines. They lacked soul. What do I mean by soul? Am I being racist? No, and it's not anything I can describe with words. You'd just have to hear it to know what I mean. I don't know, maybe their coach needs to have a talk with Eminem, find out how he got his soul on. Once they address that issue, their team will soar. Hope they get it together.

Unrelated thought for the day: All this talk of virtues, humanitarian causes and God, coming from the same person who exposed a boob to millions of children during the 2004 superbowl.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

...but I'm a published flake

A piece that I originally wrote and first published here on Devas T. Rants and Raves! has been republished on today's Austin American Statesman's Features front. While watching my son play his first soccer game earlier this year, I scribbled some mental notes reflecting my thoughts and emotions as I watched him play. The piece that followed I entitled "Soccer Dads." Ok, the Statesman changed the title, but, globally, their title is a better fit for a father's day theme. Read it here on Rants and Raves, or visit the Statesman's site for the edited and spell-checked version.

Celebrating Father's Day

Father's Day a year ago brought along with it both joy and frustration. It's a rare occasion that I have all three of my kids with me under one roof, and last year I did. I will treasure that event probably forever, however it was also the summer I damn near pulled my hair out one follicle at a time. The day was a bit, let's say, awkward. Probably just as much for the girls as it was for me. For those of you who don't know my family situation, you can read more about it here. Anyway, on this day, upon waking up, the atmosphere in my house was so thick, cutting it with a ginsu knife would not have been an easy task. The girls, then 17 and 21, weren't speaking to each other, having been arguing about something or another. My eldest was barely speaking to me since I started charging her $5.00 for every cigarette butt I found carelessly thrown in my back yard. My middle daughter, well, just plain don't speak much anyway. We are all getting dressed for church, and they are both evading me. I'm assuming they are avoiding having to cross my path therefore feeling forced to wish me a Happy Father's day. Eventually, we each crossed paths and they forced their Father's Day greetings. "Happy Father's day," they said from lips so tightly pursed, they had to spit to get it out. Neither of them actually looked me in the eye as they performed their daughterly duty. The house seemed more at ease once the girls rid themselves of the awful deed of honoring their father.

This whole experience bothered me. So much so, that I resolved to celebrate Father's Day a bit different this year. This year, I'll honor the father's in my life; my grandfather, my uncles and my brother, which is what I would normally do anyway. But in addition, I'll celebrate my successes. Because when I consider the father I had, not only as a child, but as an adult, I'm a damn good one. *sticking my thumbs in my ears, waving my fingers and making that spittle noise with my lips at whomever*
So, whatever my kids think of me, or how they choose to honor — or not honor me, I'll be celebrating regardless. I'll do breakfast at IHOP. I love pancakes. I'll go to church. I need a good spiritual message on Father's Day. For lunch, I'll have sushi at my favorite Chinese buffet, then take the family to a matinee movie or possibly swimming. I'll end the day with, well you know what: a beer. And if I'm get lucky, well I won't embarrass the wife. But I plan to get lucky.

Happy Father's Day!

Unrelated thought for the day: The wife's been giving me some lessons on communicating with her more effectively. I think I'm catching on.

Preferred communication: Could you please pick up a new shower curtain, when you have a minute and it's convenient for you, honey. Thank you.

Instead of: When are you gonna get a new shower curtain? This ones pretty nasty.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The "C" word

Pain caused his face to writhe. He shrieked from the burning sensation which temporarily overcame his whole body. The sight of blood alarmed both him and his wife. When their eyes met, neither of them uttered a word. His thoughts ensconced a million explanations for what might be happening to him. It's a good thing his wife called the doctor. With his hectic schedule, he would have conveniently ignored these telling symptoms. An appointment was made that very day. Cancer runs in his family, his grandfather, a victim, survived several bouts with the disease. His great-grandmother eventually succumbed to the disease as it ravaged her body at 82 years of age. These facts resonated in the forefront of his mind.

"Don't worry," his doctor told him. "There is blood, but it's probably nothing. Most likely a kidney stone, they are sharp and will cut like a razor as they exit your body." A specialist will better determine the cause. He studied that exotic sounding word the doctor had written on the referral. Hematuria. The doctor's penmanship added an additional plane of obscurity to the matter. But he deciphered the word and conducted his own online research. Nothing new was discovered that he didn't already know: he had blood in his urine.

His urologist was a man, but his assistant did the initial exam. A woman. A white woman. And not that race mattered, but he had never exposed himself in such a way to a woman who looked so different than he. Her questions were intrusive. His face was ablaze with discomfort about answering them. He was humiliated by the experience and could no longer look her in the eye even as she offered an apology for the previous undertaking. "Normal," she went on to explain, looking right through him as though he were glass. She didn't even see him. He was simply a patient, a name on the insurance paperwork. Not a person. "Have you ever been a smoker?" she inquired of him. "Yes, he replied, regretting every puff of his then two-pack a day habit. "But it's been fourteen years since I had my last smoke."
Cancer. She used the word. It was the first time the word was used in reference to him. The word struck him. Should have knocked him off his feet except for the fact that he has crafted a life-style of hiding his emotions. So he stared back at her just as emotionless as she looked past him.

Continued at a later date.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

There's not...

...very many of these new bubblegum rap songs that will get a brotha up and out of his seat, away from his 20 overdue paintings, dancing in his studio window, lookin' like a mad man, the way this new Pussy Cat Dolls tune (click and check it out) featuring Busta Rhymes does. "Don't 'cha wish your girlfriend was wrong like me..."

*fingers snappin', head poppin' and trippin over my not-used-in-years t-square*

"Don't 'cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me...Don't 'cha."

Yes, baby, I do. But I love mine anyway.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

What does all this mean?

I am no stranger when it comes to writing about my dreams. Earlier this year I wrote about losing my teeth at a literary event. Later, I wrote about how I woke up from a nightmare screaming out loud, the result of a nightmare. Last night I had another strange dream:

My whole family is together and we are standing at the top of a pyramid or mountainous structure. An entire population, maybe thousands of unidentified people stood behind us waiting for us to make our descent. We are gathered together on the edge of this structure looking almost straight down, many miles into a valley filled with jagged rocks and bones of those who have fallen and died. The height is dizzying. The steps which lead to the bottom of this structure are steep and shallow, each step about half the size of my foot. For leverage, there is nothing but the same steps we would walk on.

The steps are chalky white and rough, a powdery film covering each one. Should someone fall, they would never survive such a terrible distance. One by one, each family member started their descent and I watched in horror as family members who preceded me slipped, sliding into the rocky protrusions before disappearing somewhere at the bottom. In my mind, I started formulating a plan on how I would descend and make it to the bottom successfully. I witnessed a cousin fall to her death. A feeling of confidence came over me when my younger brother started his decline. He's good at everything, he'll make it with no problem. I'll do what he does. But he soon slipped and fell to his death. I prayed out loud that he wouldn't have suffered too much. I'm up next and it's my turn to step down. I took my son's hand, we're going to do this together. Balancing my foot on that first narrow step, I started to feel sick. And that's when I somehow forced myself to wake up.

It's 5:00 in the morning. This dream, maybe nightmare, didn't bother me too much. I could easily go back to sleep, but since I am way behind on my paintings for THE HIDDEN FEAST, I threw on my painting clothes, headed for the studio and went to work.

Unrelated thought for the day: I know this may be awful, but on one level I sense that Michael is guilty of something. But on another level, I am thrilled he got off. I feel for Michael because he is so different. He's the ultimate symbol of individuality, of strangeness, of being different. And I believe in one way or another, we are all different. We are all strange in the eyes of someone. And if I could read your inner thoughts, I'd probably think you are a freako, too. You'd surly think I was one knee-deep freak of the week.

Another thought:I could care less who democrats elect as their leaders. But screaming Howard Dean? Do they ever want to win elections, or are they content in their demise?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Michael Jackson: Not Guilty!

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! *hiding a really big smile*

This newsroom was captivated by this story like no other story before. Reporters gathered in clusters around each TV monitor in silence as the verdict was read. Wasn't even like this on 911. They can joke all they want to, but Michael is NOT GUILTY! *a sigh of relief*

Friday, June 10, 2005

Friday tidbits

African American scrap booking

I recently received an email request asking about the availability of scrap booking materials designed especially for African Americans. Now, I'm not a scrap booker. That fact is evident if you could see the knee-high pile of photos which the wife and I have stacked in the corner of our bedroom. One of these days we'll get around to putting all those photos into albums. Some, I assume, the wife will put together as a scrap book. I had never given much thought to creating art for scrap bookers, but I recently learned that scrap booking has become a 2-billion dollar a year industry. Needless to say, I got on the phone with my licensing agent. She mailed some samples to me and suggested that I create designs that use words such as: "Hi mom, it's me!" or "World's best Grandma!" I'm thinking that an African American design would incorporate images of African Amerian people, but my agent says no, buyers already have pictures of people, what they need are words or design components. But what's an African American design component? Kinte cloth?
My question to scrap booker-types is: what would you like to see in scrap booking design components for African Americans? And this question isn't limited to African Americans 'cause I know some of y'all are married to brotha's or vise versa and I value everyones opinion regardless.

Tomorrow I will be speaking during a break out session for the Texas Writer's League's 12th Annual Agents/Editors conference. I will also join a panel discussion with writer Mark Mitchel and editor...well, I don't know which editor. But this will be very interesting since I'm neither an agent or an editor. I have much to learn from this. Anyway, I've decided that my presentation in Tampa was over-prepared. So as an experiment in trying to discover my presentation style, I'm going to wing it. I know my stuff, so there's no reason for me to practice some hokey forced introduction.

Dog lovers, I'm going to put the final touches on my dog rant. I've hesitated about posting it, not wanting to offend anyone. But after my fat-people, lesbian and democrat rants, I guess I can't get any lower. A brotha still needs your love so if you own a demon dog, aka pitt bull, rottweiler or anything that walks on four feet, yaps, bites or pants, you may not want to skip visiting here on Monday.

Unrelated thought for the day:If sombody would just remind those jurors how much money they're going to make once this trial is over, they'd stop deliberating and give us a verdict today.

Word for the day: This word for the day thing is kind of...well, getting on my nerves.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Excuse me, I'm feelin' funky

Have you ever found yourself in a funk and you don't know why? Well, all day long, I've been feelin' kind of funky, and I don't mean stinky. There's an undercurrent of anger flowing low toward my feet and an over current of self pity floating just above my head. Depression is raging midstream. This confuses a brotha because everything seems to be in order. Beautiful wife, intelligent son, a daughter who just graduated high school. A grandson soon to be born any day now. So how come I'm feeling like somebody just stepped on my toes, smashed my ego, and drained what was left of my creative juices? And please don't send any comments telling me how things will get better 'cause I'm feeling kinda comfortable in my funkiness. Cozy, like one might feel relaxing their back on an over-stuffed sofa. Don't promise me that things will look up 'cause I'm content in this juxtaposition of happy to be sad. Today, I'm feelin' blissfully depressed, appreciably perturb and pleasurably somber. Yip, yip, hooray! And boo-hoo-hoo. I think I'll retreat to my funk hole, have a beer. Maybe two. And if the wife is already asleep when I get home after this late shift, maybe three.

Unrelated thought for the day:When Des Moines was my home, I always hated the end of a trip out of town. I had to return to a crummy duplex, in the hood, back home in Des Moines, Iowa. But after this trip, I so looked forward to returning to MY (as in ownership) home, my house in south Austin, Texas. Think I'm finally comfortable with being called and Austinite.
Word of the day: funk hole

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Little Black Sambo

Fans of children's books, see my observations on Christopher Bing's retelling of Little Black Sambo on Devas T. Reads Kiddie Books.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Blogging from Tampa!

The Blog-o-teer: Devas T., I thought you weren't going to be blogging for at least a week, thought you were traveling, making appearances, speaking and all that big-time stuff. What you doing back so soon?

Devas T.: Well, my fellow blog-o-teer, I found a computer at the hotel. And yes, unfortunately, it's a pc. But, if the folks at Blogger don't mind, I don't either. Here's my opening comments at tomorrow's presentation:

I was reading a book on improving your speaking presentation. It suggested that I imagine myself standing naked in front of this audience...or maybe it was I should imagine that the audience is naked. Whatever the suggestion was, I'm feeling pretty naked right about now and all this nakedness isn't helping a brotha out.

Normally, I present to little kids, 4 through about 9-years-old. Normally, I have a portfolio full of my original artwork. Normally, I tell stories and draw pictures. I keep my presentations visual to compensate where I lack with eloquent words. But today, I'm speaking to grown-up adults and all I have is this little disc containing a slide show. I'm feeling a bit stripped down.

How can a non-word person speak to word people? How can I speak to speakers; teach to teachers; inform the informers? I am an artist and my words just aren't quite right. My grammer is broke. My english is broker, and my sentences are overbooked with dangling modifiers. A or an? Is or was? Someone or somebody. And ain't just ain't a word.

But that's enough talk of what I can't do. Here's what I can do:

I can talk to you in my own style, in my own voice(no matter how imperfect that voice may be). I can tell you about myself, what I do and who I do it for.

I'm a visual storyteller. I tell stories with pictures. And I tell them to your children.

And I hope that when my presentation is finished, I have inspired someone to encourage a child to discover, possibly re-discover their own personal talents. And to consider where their special gifts can take them. I hope you will encourage them to take their talents and reach for the stars!

I alway honored and humbled when I receive letters from kids telling me how my presentation made them realize (many of them artist) that they someday want to illustrate, too. Many of them have no idea how they can use their art talents and most of them aren't dreaming that far into the future.

Thanks, Cyn for your input. I so much appreciate what you do for the kid-lit community. A brotha is still scared, though. *heart pumping real fast*

Sorry, no spell check today. But thats the beauty of the blog. Bad grammer and spelling is what makes the blog-o-spere worth reading.