Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cowboy Slang

So I'm working on this story set "out west" with coyotes, stage coaches, and cowdogs. As I was browsing the library shelves yesterday for some writing books, I found The Cowboy Dictionary by Ramon F. Adams. It's got a pretty awesome subtitle: "The Chin Jaw Words and Whing-Ding Ways of the American West." Being from Colorada' I understand the west, and while I love the steadiness and calm of the Midwest, I do get a hankerin' for bein' out west where (at least in the movies) no one pronounces their r's. But seriously, back to the Cowboy Dictionary. I thought I'd add some words over the next few days to give y'all a taste of some cowboy lingo.

"airin' the lungs" - "What the cowboy calls 'cussin' which seems to be a natural part of his language (p. 4)

"all horns and rattles" - "said of someone displaying a fit of temper. A man in his mood, as one cowboy said, 'maybe don't say nothin', but it ain't safe to ask questions.'" (p. 5)

"ankle express" - "The feet. To walk." (p. 6)

While y'all are at it, you might enjoy this site.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I just got the fall catalog from the Penguin Young Readers' Group, which includes Dutton Children's Books, which is releasing my book Gobble Gobble Crash this fall. (Whew! That was a long sentence.) It's always awesome to see the book being promoted in catalogs. No longer is it a private text that I revised and reworked through many drafts. Now it is public! (which is great and a little scary)

Until its release date (in Sept. 08), you can be amused by this video showing two turkeys fighting on a highway. I liked the title: "Gobble! Gobble! Them's Fightin' Words!"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Baby chickens and Alpacas

This past week, I got to see a chick hatchery at the Museum of Science and Industry. Here are some of the adorable photos.

In one section of the hatchery, there were eggs still "percolating." One little guy had just hatched. He would take two or three wobbly steps and then need a little nap.

Then on this past Sunday, I went to the Alpaca Invitational at the Fort Wayne Coliseum. Alpacas are related to camels and llamas. Llamas are taller than alpacas, and are usually pack animals. The alpacas are used for their fleece. They are herd animals and seem to love being close to each other, like these two.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Book Review

A couple of weeks ago, I read a short little book by Julia Cameron called "How to Avoid Making Art." It's a humorous take on why artists don't make their artwork--whether that be art, dance, music, writing, whatever. Each page has a "reason" why you would want to avoid doing anything artistic along with a little comic. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Be in a big hurry
  • Take seriously every negative thing anyone says
  • Slide into despair rather than take one small exploratory action
  • Consider the odds against whatever you make ever selling (ouch, that one hurts)
  • Demand that what you do be absolutely original, totally brilliant, and never done before.
  • Only share your good news with those who will immediately dampen it.
  • Tell yourself that your job keeps you from making art and then work overtime just to prove it.
  • The minute you have an idea, ask yourself: how much cold, hard cash is it worth?
  • Think of all the other books that have been written. Why write this one? (Ouch again)
  • Under no circumstances make any art just for fun.
  • Never venture into new artistic territory, no matter how tempting.
  • Never celebrate a job well done. Always think about "more" that needs doing.
Julia Cameron is my favorite writer on writing. Her books The Right to Write and The Sound of Paper have really changed the way I view my writing and creative process (I sound so high-faluting when I say that!).

This was the backdrop for some of my thinking when I visited the Art Institute in Chicago last week with my family. I wondered if the artists who are now considered "masters" ever thought their work would be viewed in a museum. Did they think, "oh, this is crap, I better just throw it out"? Did they get frustrated or have trouble with deadlines or feel trapped in a job that wouldn't let them do their art? Did they "venture into new artistic territories"? Did they doubt the quality of their work?

My guess is that most, if not all of them, had self-doubt and frustrations with their artwork, their time limitations, their small pay. They probably felt "blocked" at some point in their career, were frustrated by the market, what was selling, what they had to do to get by.

It makes me thankful for the writing career that I've sort of stumbled into. There are no guarantees it'll continue, that I'll continue to have my books published. That scares me, but it also makes me glad for what I have been able to produce. And that's why I love Julia Cameron's advice so much. Make art, whatever it is, just because you can. Don't worry about finishing that poem or the painting or the song. Don't worry about how much time you have or don't have. Just create and enjoy the fact that, being made in God's image, you long to create beauty in a world where it is often missing.