Wednesday, June 20, 2012

21 Days

Today is the 21th day of my dad's stay in the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital.  My family is very supportive.  Being a member of a supportive family means that some of us have been with him almost every day (me).  Some of us have even slept there (not me, yet). 

What does one do in a hospital when a parent is heavily sedated? For me? I pray.  Whisper comforting words and learn to read monitors.  I also work using a sketch pad.  This, I pull out and proceed to sketch illustrations for my finished stories, all the while, daydreaming about the color palette I'll use.  Working with pencil, I practice sketching character movement and develop multiple sketches of character profiles. 

Porting my unfinished drafts to the hospital and home again, I consider new story action and stronger character personality for each story.  As I organize the story plot, I rework it to "show" and not "tell" the story.  Intently, I search for those illusive "lazy" words that I must replace or omit.

It's an intense time each day.  My frustrations lead to elevator rides.  First floor for walks and fresh air.  Seventh floor - coffee.  Basement - a snack .   
Dad stirs and grasps at nothing. "It's okay, Dad.  It's me, Brenda. "

Texting the latest medical reports to family members, commenting on FB, and reading blog posts by other writers and illustrators helps to fill the lonely hours.
A hospital room is a working cubicle for nurses, doctors, and even custodians.  I am a fixture.  Sometimes I'm in the way; a useless displaced obstacle in an overcrowded cubicle.  At other times, I'm a curiousity; me, with sketch pad and pencil.  Nurses begin to question my profession. "Are you an artist?" 

I say, "Yes.  I'm an illustrator.  I've written and illustrated a book."

"Oh, you have a book?" 

"Yes, a children's chapter book.  It's called ADOLFO AND ATHENA."  (Is it tasteless to mention your recently published book while your dad is struggling to survive?)

Days pass.  Distant family members discover they have an author in their family.  They check out the book trailer on their phones.  I watch their reactions.  Their chuckles and smiles are like water to a displaced traveler.  (I check my guilty feelings.  Dad is still very ill.)
Dad has a nightmare.  In discomfort, he pulls at the tubes.  I try to pacify.  "It's okay.  I'm here.  We're always here, because we love you."

It's Day 18, Saturday, and I need a break.  In the Family Waiting Room my son has been telling a teacher (friend of my sister) about my book.  She asks if I would like to do a classroom author visit next year.  She thinks it would be good for her 4th grade kids.  "Sure," I tell her, "Just send me the objectives." 

On day 19, my dad is awake, weak, and responsive.  He laughs in silence.  It's all hand signals and head nods.  No vocal sounds protrude, after his tracheotamy.

Day 20, Francis introduces herself.  She tells me, Dad has to be moved to an extended hospital facility.  I ask for her contact information.  She searches for a pen.  I hand her my pencil.  She marvels at it's balanced weight and touch. 

"It's an artist's pencil," I say.  She asks if I'm an artist.  "I'm an illustrator.  A new one.  I've written and illustrated my first book."

"I love to read.  What's the name of your book?" she says.


"Oh, like the Greek goddesses Athena and her sister Artemis."

"Yes, but I also have a friend named Athena.  I named the book after her."

Thinking back, I could have said my character's name is Athena like the goddess of war.  Afterall, my main characters, Athena and Adolfo, are  siblings who are at war with each other.

So, this is the story of how I did nothing to promote my book and yet, it got promoted in the midst of desperately sad and sometimes lonely days. 

Today is his Dad's 21st day at the hospital.  I dressed and prepared to go, but didn't.  Exhaustion set in.  I notified Mom, stayed home, and slept.  Dad is getting better.  Mom called to tell me the doctor installed a talking device on Dad.  He seems to be tolerating it well.  Dad has many more weeks of recovery.  I'll be there tomorrow to hear his first words in 22 days. 

(Pray for his healing and for peace from pain and fright.)

A Birthday Poem for Mia, rev. 2

I sent out a call to my "12x12in 2012" poet buddies.  Two generous poets answered my call and critiqued the poem.  Here's a brief overview of what they said.  (I hope they don't mind my posting their thoughtful and extremely helpful advice.)

Ellen Ramsey

Your poem is delightful. The rhythms are lively and the poem is fun to read.
I'm concerned that the poem may not have a strong enough story to become a picture book. Have you thought about adding a stronger story line--some conflict--a problem to solve so that this poem would work better as a picture book.

Another option you might consider is developing this as a board book. Your narrator and your intended audience is a very young child, so this might be appropriate—and a board book would be shorter than a standard picture book.
If you decide to make the poem longer, you might consider a refrain—

My piñata tree,
Is calling for me.

You could have a few things go wrong at the birthday party, but still the party would end with the joy of the piñata bursting open and showering the kids with surprises.

Another thing you might consider is that the first stanza doesn't have quite the same pattern as the rest of the poem. Also, I'm not sure the line in the fifth stanza "Its mosaic sings" fits with the simplicity of the language of the rest of the poem.
Hope this helps. Good luck with this poem. Please let me know how you decide to proceed.

Alison Kipnis Hertz 6:45am Jun 16
Brenda, I enjoyed your poem but it needs a little work on rhyme and meter. If you are doing rhymed couplets, then the end of every two lines rhyme. It looks like this is the format you are using but the following do not rhyme:
tios & three
coming & running
Mama & Papa
clown & around

also if a word is rhyming with a singular word, it should be singular, not plural or it sounds off. You used bright with delights. Take the "s" off delights and that line in fine.

The message in the poem is cute. Sounds like a great party.

Last thing, say each line out loud and count the beats. Poetry is not just about numbers of syllables, but also about how it rolls off the tongue.

Here is revision 2 of my poem:

Feliz! Feliz! This is My Day

This is my day!
Everyone play!
A pinata tree,
is ready for me.

Clap for Mia's three!
Shout and dance with me!
Sing, "Feliz, feliz."
Share a hug and kiss.

Look, friends are coming,
See, Mia's running.
Pilla, pilla tag me!
Corre, corre catch me!

The pinata sings,
With all joy it swings.
The colors are bright,
They tell of delight.

Primos dance with me,
Sing that Mia's three.
Pilla, pilla tag me!
Corre, corre catch me!

Laughing with Mama,
Laughing at Papa,
Who's dressed as a clown,
And dancing around.

Pilla, pilla tag me!
Corre, corre catch me!
My pinata tree,
Is calling for me.

Lots more work to do.  I'm trying to find appropriate words that rhyme with clown. Here's the easy list:

town, frown, brown, crown, goun, down

and words that rhyme with around.

bound, found, hound, mound, pound, round, sound, wound

And trying to make stanza 6 fit in with the rest of the poem.  Also, I wonder about the order of the stanzas.  Plus, I have never been able to count beats correctly.  Is it because I'm bilingual?  Oh, I don't know.  :{

Do you have any suggestions or comments?  Constructive comments and/or critiques welcomed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Birthday Poem for Mia

Feliz! Feliz!  This is My Day

Primos and tios,
Are saying, I'm three.
And shouting, "Feliz!"
Come give us a kiss!

Look, friends are coming,
See, Mia's running.
Pilla, pilla tag me!
Corre, corre catch me!

Laughing with Mama,
Laughing at Papa,
Who's dressed as a clown,
And dancing around.

This is my day!
Everyone play!
A piñata tree,
Is ready for me.

The piñata swings,
It's mosaic sings,
The colours are bright,
They tell of delights.

Pilla, pilla tag me!
Corre, corre catch me!
My piñata tree,
Is calling for me.