User or Preserver?

Book fans, I will return to author interviews and book giveaways at some point in the near future. Sorry. I’ve been a bit frazzled lately, and haven’t yet reached out to the many people I know whose books have debuted in recent months. I will though! For now, I’ll continue to unspool my mental floss.

Were you that prescient kind of kid (or adult) who kept your Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the old ones), He-Man, Transformers, or Strawberry Shortcake figures in their original boxes, or your comic books hermetically sealed, knowing that someday you would sell them? If so, good for you! A friend of mine has a Boba Fett action figure from back in the day, still in its original box. (Off to eBay he goes!)

039

The new Strawberry Shortcake. Just sayin’.

Unfortunately, I was not that kind of kid. And yes, I have had moments of regret about that.

See this?

009

And this?

018

And these?

032    030

I’m totally dating myself by revealing some of my comic book stash. (All of my Archie comic books and other non-superhero comic books have disappeared for some reason.) But surely you noticed that they’re not in great condition. Some (like the Avengers issue above) are better than others.

012

Well, not this one. This represents my sad attempt at preservation many years after purchase.

Take a look at these. I couldn’t even tell you where the cover for the one on the right might be. It also is a Superboy comic book.

023    025

Yes, Superboy, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen comic books existed at one point. And that was back when Lois Lane, the intrepid reporter, was mostly known as Superman’s girlfriend (or girl friend as you can see below), as well as someone constantly in need of a rescue.

015   036

Wait. Not much has changed in that department. 😦 (Now there’s a blog post waiting to be written.) But the point is, I enjoyed reading these comic books back in the day, never once thinking that someday I could sell them. (I used to spend my allowance money on them.)

045

This is old, but it is younger than the others in this post.

I also was not much for taking photos to preserve life’s special moments, though I used to own a good Nikon camera. Unfortunately, I’m no Dorothea Lange or Ansel Adams. Invariably, I would either cut off someone’s head or I would take a “red-eye” photo, where everyone looked like an alien from another galaxy. (Maybe that’s why I write fantasy and sci-fi novels.)

dorothea_lange1  Ansel_Adams_and_camera

As for other ways of capturing the moments, I was faithful for a short while at preserving my thoughts and angsty poetry in journals. Ha ha. I quit doing that too.

I’m more of a user than a preserver. That sounds negative, doesn’t it? In a different context, it would. But you see, I played with the toys that were given to me. Like this tiger I’ve had since I was eleven years old.

042

I enjoyed reading comic books in the backyard with my bare feet on warm green grass, while occasionally admiring the fleecy clouds swirl by overhead. Sounds like a photo op, right? But those pictures are memories in my head, rather than in a scrapbook.

I take more photos now than I used to, mainly because of this blog. But when I’m outside enjoying a silky breeze or watching the war between the robins and grackles for supremacy in the yard, sometimes I forget to capture the moment on my phone. Rest assured, though. Those moments are preserved where they need to be—in my heart.

What about you? User or preserver?

020

An example of the kind of photo I take. Note the toy dog’s butt sticking up at the bottom of the photo. This is Pupcake, Strawberry Shortcake’s dog. Not his best side.

Ansel Adams from dyslexiahelp.umich.edu. Dorothea Lange from umphotoj.wordpress.com. Other photos by L. Marie. (Sigh.)

Just Perfect

Dorothea_Lange_CoverAs promised, today, I reveal the winner of Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning by the wonderful Elizabeth Partridge (Chronicle Books). Please check out the interview with Elizabeth here if you missed it. Thanks to the magic of the random number generator (and it really is a marvel; I would marry it, if it were a sentient being), the winner is

Is

Is

Is

Is

Is

Andy of City Jackdaw!!!

Woo hoo, Andy!! Merry Christmas to you! I hope this book will add to your love of old photographs. Please confirm below, then email your snail mail address and phone number to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com, and I’ll have the book sent to you. I’m also open to providing you an ecard that will cover the cost of the book if you prefer to order it from Amazon yourself in order to maintain privacy. If that’s your preference, please say so when you email. Once again, thank you for commenting.

allforme

No. Elizabeth’s book is for Andy!

Also, I want to acknowledge the many awards for which this blog has been nominated by Patty of Petite Magique, by Melissa Janda, Teri Morin of Bite Size Canada, and others I’m sure I’m leaving out. Thank you very much for honoring the blog in such a kind way. I’m sorry to repay your kindness by being so neglectful. I’m a little overwhelmed these days, so I’ll just say thanks for the awards. One of these days, I’ll have to pass on some awards. For now, I’m doing good just putting my socks on the right feet.

Moving on: We’ve had a lot of snow and ice lately in the Midwest. Case in point: this rose bush stands outside my back door. Ain’t it purty?

002

So, I can’t help think about snowflakes. When I was a kid, I used to love making snowflakes in school—cutting them carefully out of paper. I’d litter my desk with tiny cutout pieces of paper. The more intricate the snowflake, the better. Though symmetrical, my snowflakes often had flaws.

paper-snowflake

Not my snowflake. My snowflakes have flaws.

Even perfect paper snowflakes can’t compare with the real thing. Frozen Planet (Discovery.com) has an awesome video on snowflakes. Check it out here: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/frozen-planet/videos/filming-snowflakes-forming.htm.

Ever catch snowflakes on your finger or on your tongue? These tiny perfect miracles born of ice crystals are a joy to see, aren’t they? (Um, unless you live in an area where the temperature is warm year round. Then, I guess you don’t see them.)

first_normal

Sometimes I try to be a snowflake—you know, perfect. Buying the perfect Christmas gifts. Writing the perfect sentence, scene, or blog post. Saying the perfect thing to a grieving friend. Visiting others’ blogs with perfect consistency. Or, I have expectations of perfection—i.e., planning the perfect holiday or vacation. And you know what? Unlike snowflakes, I don’t always get it right. I don’t get it right even a third of the time. Or a tenth. I’m naturally imperfect—like the snowflakes I used to make at school. But that’s okay. I still get to have fun along the way. It’s also not an excuse either to avoid trying my best. 😀

Life’s a learning curve we’re all on. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back to watching perfect snowflakes falling and remember that unlike them, I don’t have to be perfect.

Paper snowflake from themiraclejournal.com. Real snowflake from news.nationalgeographic.com. Cat from LOL Cats. Elizabeth’s book cover from her website.

Check This Out: Dorothea Lange—Grab a Hunk of Lightning

Greetings one and all. With me on the blog today is one of the four awesome advisors who guided me while I was a student at VCFA. Please join me in welcoming the amazing Elizabeth Partridge. Welcome, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction books, including Marching for Freedom; John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth; Dogtag Summer; This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie; and Big Cat Pepper—just to name a few. Cool, huh? And if you’re wondering which awards she won, here’s a handy list: National Book Award Finalist, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Michael L. Printz Honor, SCBWI Golden Kite Award, SLJ’s Battle of the Books, and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.

       MarchingForFreedomDogtagSummer%20final%20cover

9780670059546_zoom_1Impressive, huh? Elizabeth is represented by Steven Malk at Writers House. She’s here today to talk about her latest nonfiction book, Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (Chronicle Books), which debuted last month. Even if Dorothea’s name doesn’t sound familiar, I’m betting her work is. Recognize the photo at the right? This photo, “Migrant Mother 1936,” is one of the most memorable images of the twentieth century. According to Amazon, this book “is the only career-spanning monograph of this major photographer’s oeuvre in print, and features images ranging from her iconic Depression-era photograph ‘Migrant Mother’ to lesser-known images from her global travels later in life.” One of you will win a copy of this book. But let’s talk to Elizabeth first!

          Dorothea_Lange_Cover Migrant Mother [1936]

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Elizabeth: 1. I write nonfiction and fiction for kids and young adults, and nonfiction for adults (so far).
2. I live in the house I grew up in. It’s a big, huge Berkeley house.
3. I live with my 96-year-old dad, my husband, our son, his fiancée, dogs, cats, and chickens.
4. I was an acupuncturist for more than twenty years.

El Space: Cool! Now, this isn’t your first book on Dorothea Lange. How did this new project come about? Where did the title—Grab a Hunk of Lightning—come from?
Elizabeth: Dorothea Lange was my godmother. My father, Rondal Partridge, knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was a teenager, and his mother, Imogen Cunningham, sent him to work with a couple photographers she called “family friends.” Ron worked with Ansel Adams for a while in Yosemite, and then went to work for Dorothea. He packed her camera bags, drove her around the backroads of California, developed her negatives, printed her prints, etc. Gradually he was folded into the family, and we all grew up with her. She was the undisputed matriarch of our family, and had more influence on me creatively and politically than anyone else.

Elizabeth_Partridge_and_Dorothea_Lange-p18bsa89361p6eppb8lg1nnl1l1u

Elizabeth Partridge with her godmother, Dorothea Lange

WhiteAngelBreadlineSF1933The title of the book, Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, comes from something Dorothea said. She was a portrait photographer in San Francisco when the Great Depression hit. One day she was looking out her second floor studio window and saw an unemployed man below come to the corner and pause. He didn’t know which way to go. She decided she better make something happen. So she went out with her camera and took a few photographs. She went back to her studio, developed and printed the images, and put one up on the wall. She said she did it to see if she could “just grab a hunk of lightning.” The photo, “White Angel Breadline,” became one of her best known images.

Dorothea’s granddaugher, Dyanna Taylor, is making a film by the same title. It will air on PBS’s American Masters in the fall of 2014. Dyanna is one of my lifelong best friends, and it has been a blast working on this project together.

El Space: What was the most challenging aspect of working on this book? How long was the process from start to finish?
Elizabeth: Challenging? Hmm. Probably the schedule. Books take a long time once they are turned in to the publisher before they are in the bookstores. We were really burning the midnight oil on this one. I think I did the whole thing in about 10 or 11 months. The fun challenge was to put images in the book that had never been seen before. Between never and rarely seen, I think I got about 15 or 16 images in.

El Space: Some nonfiction books have come under fire over the years because the authors were less than factual. What tip(s) do you have for ensuring accuracy in nonfiction?
Elizabeth: I’m a stickler for Telling the Truth. Get it right. The best way to do this is to track back to primary source documents.

El Space: You’ve written a number of biographies. Is there a dream biography you’d like to write? If so, whose?
Elizabeth: A dream biography. . . . Yep, I do have one in mind. But it is still a secret until I see if there is enough material for me to do it. Hint: the most dramatic and important and heartbreaking part takes place in WWII.

160057El Space: What book, if any, inspired you as a child or teen?
Elizabeth: I could have been a poster child for a bookworm. I used to walk to the library on Friday and pick up a stack of books to read. I was pretty omnivorous. I loved those biographies that now we know are all made up . . . a whole series of important people. They had blue or orange covers, depending on when you read them . . . first or second printing I suppose. For some reason lately, I’ve been thinking about one of my all time childhood favorites: David and the Phoenix [by Edward Ormondroyd]. It made me feel the world was alive with all kinds of magical creatures, all kinds of possibilities and adventures. It also was one of those stunning moments after I read it when I read the back flap and realized . . . real people write books.

El Space: What are you working on now?
Elizabeth: Right now I’m working on a book on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. I’m interviewing vets who came back. Through their stories I want to tell the stories of those whose names are on the wall: the men and women who didn’t come back. It’s an honor to do these interviews.

Thanks, Elizabeth, for being my guest! Interviewing you has been an honor for me!

Looking for Elizabeth? You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter. Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning can be found here:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Powell’s Books

One of you will win this beautiful book for your collection. Just comment below. Winner to be announced on Thursday, December 19.

Author photo and covers from Elizabeth Partridge’s website. “Migrant Mother 1936” photo from historicalphotographsoftheworld.blogspot.com. “White Angel Breadline” photo from columbia.edu. David and the Phoenix cover from Goodreads.