When I read a book to my grandsons, I read from the beginning. Specifically, we pause and read the page containing the author’s name and illustrator’s name (I’m sure there’s a fancy word for this page, but I don’t know what it is.) I start here because I want the boys to understand that who wrote the book is important and who illustrated it is important. Without these two folks, the boys would not have the joy of the book.
Even so, I have never approached a book from the slant of the illustrator. I did so for THE POPE’S CAT, Illustrated by my friend Roy DeLeon (and written by my former editor at Paraclete Press, Jon M. Sweeney.) Roy is an Oblate of St. Benedict, spiritual director, author of Praying with the Body (an offering in Paraclete’s Active Prayer Series that includes my Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God), an engaging professional visual artist, and a man as delightful as his illustrations.
In this chapter book recommended for ages six and up, (though I intend to read it to my 4 and 6-year-old grandsons), we are introduced to a stray cat via a charming glimpse of her crouching outside an Italian gelato stand in Rome. Next, we are given what has to be the most endearing image of the Pope that’s ever been. He’s waving at us. When this delightful Pope strolls past the cat’s gelato stand, the magic begins.
The next time we see the cat, she’s tucked into the cassock of the Pope as he walks into the Vatican apartments, then licking her lips over a plate of sugar cookies—her life is definitely on the uptick. The cat acquires a name (“Margaret”) and, as cats are want to do, goes exploring—the image of her with the Swiss Guard is adorable. We are also given the iconic image of the papal view from the balcony looking out over the crowd in the plaza below . . . except it’s Margaret the cat sitting at a window facing the crowd. I won’t give away plot complications. Suffice it to say it involves a sneeze. The image of a satisfied Margaret giving a broad wink is worth the price of the book.
As you read, be sure to note the whole of the illustrations, not just the foreground but what Roy has chosen for the backgrounds as well. I expect you are going to wind up with a well-thumbed and beloved book.
THE POPE’S CAT (Paraclete Press, 2018, paperback) will release March 13, 2018 and is now available for preorder on Amazon.
It isn’t what you’ve seen on YouTube. It’s not drunkenness and lifting tops. It’s exuberance and cleverness and so much work spent on costumes simply because being alive is an amazing wild ride.
I wore a diorama of myself. That’s my book, THE BONE TRENCH, in the diorama. It may never get sold, so I made one myself. 🙂
Mardi Gras is families and kids and kids and families.
Mardi Gras is everyone in a city dressing up to strut down the street and hoot at the costumes and applaud each other in their creativity and, oh, you should have seen strangers accepting wishes from the shooting stars—they LOVED it.
My spirit animal for 2018 is the hedgehog. This is not new. I own the cutest collection of hedgehogs ever, which isn’t hard because hedgehogs are fundamentally cute. My focus on hedgehogs is, let’s say, resurrected. And this love will be incorporated into my Mardi Gras costume.
Thus, in preparation and general betterment of the world, I offer you Hedgehog Facts.
Hedgehogs have changed little in the last 15 million years. They are a distant relative of the shrew. They shed their spines when under extreme stress.
Hedgehogs are not rodents. The species native to the Americas is extinct. They sleep during the day and wake at night to waddle around. A group of hedgehogs is called a prickle. Ferrets eat them. They can hibernate if their tummies are full enough. If they do hibernate, their body temperature drops to 36 degrees. They get cold as hell. They grunt like a pig.
Hedgehogs talk a lot. Like honey badgers, they are immune from snake bites. They eat frogs and watermelon and other things. They live long because they control their diet. They give humans ringworm. People ate hedgehogs in the Medieval ages, the barbarians.
Hedgehogs sleep rolled up in a ball.
Their ears are huge.
They like to live alone.
Their babies are called hoglets.
Hoglets whistle to find their moms.
Adult hedgehogs squeal when excited.
Hedgehogs are shy, hidden creatures. You will have to look closely to see my “Homage to Hedgehog” on my Mardi Gras outfit, but now you know what to look for.
Can y’all hardly wait to see my Mardi Gras Day costume?
Mardi Gras DAY because it’s already Mardi Gras season, and I’ve been in costume for a while.
For Tuesday, I’m making a tableaux.
And I’m wearing it.
You’re gonna LOVE it, I just know.
For the tableaux, I’m using one of the throws I got last night at the Muses Parade, readapted. Technically, my oldest grandson got the throw, but he didn’t want it, and I swapped him a blinking rubber ducky for it. He doesn’t know I’m using it in my Mardi Gras Day costume. He’s gonna LOVE it, I just know.
This morning, we went to his school’s Mardi Gras parade. Yep, after doing Muses last night, we were up at 8:00 this morning to be the grandparents at the kindergarten parade, which was the cutest thing you have ever seen, all pre-K and K students. Aubrey was the banner-carrier, head of the parade. He was so pleased. When he finished, all he wanted to know from his dad was, “Did you get any beads?”
I’ll post photos of the costume. In the meantime, here’s a random photo of New Orleans.
I have just completed another rewrite of Jazzy and the Pirate. I created a document to hold the cuts I made, in case I wanted to add them back in.
The document is 31,252 words.
That’s 124 pages.
The finished version of this draft is 48 pages shorter than my last draft. (I read once that you don’t have a first draft until someone reads it; I had a paid editor (first draft) then a Beta reader (2nd draft), then another handful of Beta readers, so although I’ve been working on this since God was a toddler, this is my third draft). If you do the math, I wrote 76 new pages and cut 124 pages for a tighter manuscript that’s 50 pages shorter than the most recent draft. I also cut five family members, changed the names of most of the remaining members, demoted a pirate to non-named status, eradicated two plots, and eliminated three entire pages as I slogged through the most tedious chore known to womankind: cutting overused words (“like,” appeared over 240 times, y’all—240 times; I got it down to 58).
That’s why I call it a rewrite: it’s too massive to call a revision.
(It’s also why I go incommunicado for long periods of time—sorry about that.)
Those are mechanical measures. The question is, do I like the new draft better? Of course I do—I wrote it. I’m being facetious. More often than not, I have to delete chunks of new scenes because they make my skin crawl. This is the strangest process. I write and write, working on a scene to make it perfect, then when I see it in my mind, it makes my skin crawl, and out it goes. Sometimes I can condense what I’ve written into summary, and I’m okay with it. Other times, I highlight the whole thing and zap! I cut it. Same thing with narrative: I write an “amazing” piece of narrative then have to slash it by two-thirds or delete it altogether. In a concession to a slash-happy knife, I do rake through the 124 pages of cuts and reinsert bits and pieces that shine.
In other words, I overwrite my later drafts (whereas I underwrite my first drafts—readers always want more). Then I must sift through the crap to find the diamonds, the same way my mother had to sift through our dog’s crap when he licked her earlobe and swallowed her diamond earring. I also tend to “tell” too much in the rewrites—as in, dammit, you whiney readers don’t get this point, then let me hit you over the head with it. “Chiseling” might be a good word for my later drafts, where I lump on stony sections then have to carve away to leave only elegant lines.
It’s a very herky-jerky, forward and backward, inefficient way of proceeding.