100 Posts At Illustration Friday

Graphite drawing for the theme of swell.
Graphite drawing for the theme of swell.

About Illustration Friday

Illustration has been going strong for about a half dozen years or so. It is the brainchild of Penelope Duggan, who is an illustrator who quit her day job to freelance. The creation of  Illustration was the first step in a successful transfer from employee to self-employed. The best way to learn about Illustration Friday is to visit the site, but in a nutshell, Illustration Friday cab best be described as a “participatory art exhibit for illustrators of all skill levels where new topics are posted each Friday to challenge participants creatively“.

Imaginary Century-eyeball plant
Imaginary Century-eyeball plant posted for the topic, perennial.

How It Works

Every Friday a new topic is posted on the home page of the Illustration Friday page. Contributors have one week to post a drawing or illustration inspired by the one word topic. The image is posted on your own personal blog and then linked to the main page of Illustration Friday. A small 50 pixel X 50 pixel thumbnail is then uploaded to the main page and the thumb is linked to the appropriate blog page. Viewers can then cull through the hundreds of thumbs and then visit the blog pages of those images they particularly enjoy or admire. Once at the artists site, the viewer is free to leave a message or comment. Since Penelope started her site, many simular venues have sprung up around the web.

Two bluebirds sitting on a weather vane used to illustrate the topic of "duet"
Two bluebirds sitting on a weather vane used to illustrate the topic of "duet"

My Site

My blog link to Illustration Friday is called Illustrate Friday. It is used solely for posting drawings and paintings for Illustration Friday. Over the past several years I maybe average one or two posts per month. Creating illos for IF has not gained me any freelance work, but has served as a positive creative outlet that produces a minimal amount of feedback. If you like to sketch and draw, then check out this website and participate. For some, IF is a very interactive place.

Tainted Cup of Tea

K2 is a mountain on the China-Pakistan border, from Wkikpedia
K2 is a mountain on the China-Pakistan border, from Wikipedia

Fiction Or Non-fiction

As of late, 60 minutes is becoming a regular visitor on the literary scene. Their latest excursion into the literary world occurred this Sunday night and concerned one of the best-selling non-fiction writers in the English language.  The writer of concern is Greg Mortenson who has written the best-seller, Three Cups of Tea. If just some of the things that Mortenson’s critics claim are true, Mortenson might have to re-classify his popular travel and humanitarian story as fiction. Does anybody remember James Fry and the controversy that erupted over A Million Little Pieces? Seems that Greg Mortenson might have problems of a similar nature.

Add Fraud

Unfortunately, Mortenson’s problem may not be limited to telling a few tall tales in a non-fiction venue. You see Mortenson has developed a whole network of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that are operated from funds provided by philanthropists from around the world. Some of the more notable benefactors include Jon Krakauer and Barrack Obama, both of whom are successful authors in their own right. According to the reporters at CBS 60 minutes, Mortenson has participated in several questionable practices with his fundraising activities. These include misuse of non-profit status to promote a private enterprise, funding schools that don’t exist or are no longer in service and fabricating facts.

Deeper Problems

Just for stretching the facts in his memoir,  James Fry in conjunction with his publisher had to refund dissatisfied customers, plus give large sums of money to several deserving charities. Still, Fry was able to complete and sell a follow-up novel that has enjoyed good sales. So when all is said and done, the inaccuracies in “Million Pieces” may boil down to some very expensive advertising for the next novel. Events may not turn out so well for the author of “Three Cups of Tea”.For even if only half of what 60 Minutes reports is true, Mortenson could be in much deeper trouble.

150 Year Anniversaries

Battle of Gettysburg by Currier & Ives
Battle of Gettysburg by Currier & Ives

In 1861, 15o years ago (April 12, 1861) the Civil War began and nearly destroyed the country. With over a half a million fatalities, this war far exceeds any other American historical event with its loss of life. Many theories have been put forth as to why this happened. Perhaps the most persistent ideas suggest that advanced weaponry combined with outdated  strategical troop deployment and poor medical techniques, all share responsibility for this huge loss of life. One interesting historical note exists, whereabouts the majority of battlefield leaders were all graduates of the United States Military Academy, better known as West Point. It is estimated that during the 60 major battles fought during the war, 55 field commanders on each side were West Point graduates. This list included General Robert E. Lee, General Ulysess Grant and General Tecumseh Sherman.

Of special note to this imposing fact is the release of a new historical novel about how the various West Point generals conducted their campaigns and related to their fellow officers from the other side. In commemoration of the attack on Fort Sumter (April 12) by Confederates and the beginning of the Great War, a novel has been released this week. The book is called “Duty, Honor, Country, A Novel from West Point to The Civil War” and the author is named Bob Mayer. Mr. Mayer is a prolific author with many titles available in both paper and ebook formats. For more info about Mayer’s venture into ebook self-publishing, you can check out his recent post at Jon Konrath’s blog, entitled A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing. Mayer passes over the storyline rather quickly, and spends much of the time discussing why he has decided not to go with a major publisher (St. Martin’s) and go it alone with a self-published kindle version on Amazon. I wonder how many more successful legacy authors are going to pass lucrative deals and publish their own ebook version. As far as I know, no paper editions of this book are available.

Richmond at the End of the Civil War,
Richmond at the End of the Civil War,

E-mails from Japan


Man On Horseback Crossing a Bridge, by Hiroshige
Man On Horseback Crossing a Bridge, by Hiroshige

What’s happening in Japan is sad and tragic. It ‘s hard sometimes to watch the newscast, especially as time goes on and we get to see the full extent of the earthquake and tsunami damage. When watching the TV, I find myself often retreating from the incessant news flow, which despite it cataclysmic nature is still somewhat mesmerizing for the viewer.

Nonetheless, I have a relative on the inside, who lives and works near Tokyo and can provide information on what is going on, not at ground zero( where all the news crews are), but several hundred miles away from the epicenter of the quake. Fortunately, satellite communications have remained open and so we have been able to exchange communications. First email arrived  on Thursday night EST and detailed how it took five hours to walk home. The distance was 18 miles, an included a journey from Tokyo to Yokohama. The streets were full of people, especially since all trains were out of service.

Next came a description of the initial quake shock, one that lasted a full five minutes or 300 seconds, another way of describing the duration, which more actually portrays the excruciating length. Then came a brief memory of a family trip taken to the coastal area, where the tsunami came ashore. This journey happened last summer. The last communication, describes a return to work in Tokyo on Monday. Starting time was held back until noon to help stagger the rush hour traffic. Trains were back to 50 % and blackouts only last for three hours every day. However, food and especially water are hard to come by, as stores are not always open and sell out quickly.  No news has been forthcoming since Monday afternoon, Japanese time.

Tomorrow, I will likely return to discussing e-books.


Myrtle Beach Traffic


The city of Myrtle Beach viewed from the state park pier
The city of Myrtle Beach viewed from the state park pier

I was in Myrtle Beach the other day. I had volunteered to go to help a friend of the family pick up a new car. The journey was OK, but the traffic was not, even though March would still be considered the off-season. No matter how you look at it, this coastal resort is not the same place I remember as a child. Today, the sleepy little, seaside oasis has turned into a major metropolitan area, for now, the bustling urban area is occupied the year round. No better proof can be found than by taking a automobile trip through the center of town during the cooler winter months.

After completing the car deal, our little party skirted the city proper and headed south for Murrels Inlet, a much smaller seaside town located just south of Myrtle Beach. This place has also changed, but still offers a small reprieve from busiest parts of the Grand Strand. A late lunch at a restaurant called Flo’s, proved to be a perfect place to sit back and enjoy the end of the car-buying process. Flo’s is a New Orleans styled restaurant that sits on a small tidal basin, hence the name. The food was good and our waterside table, even provided a quick glimpse of a bald eagle landing in the top of a loblolly pine.

After lunch we visited the Myrtle Beach State Park, another green oasis, which is actually located inside the city limits. Admission to the fishing pier is included with the park fee. The pier is well worth a visit, as is the wind-sculptured live oak forest that grows profusely just past the sand dunes. This unique type of forest once was more abundant in the vicinity, but presently is limited to only a few locales.

This popular SC state park even provides campsites and cabins, but on this overcast drizzly weekend the oceanside site was almost deserted. The day ended with a drive home amidst moderate weekend traffic.


Barrier sand dunes at Myrtle Beach State Park
Barrier sand dunes at Myrtle Beach State Park


Advice From Successful Writers

Saturn After Equinox, Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

One of my greatest distractions from writing is reading what other writers have written about the craft. This is no minor area of publication, for if you happen to visit any decent-sized bookstore, you will see quite a few book titles that deal with this subject matter. Some may be writers with great name recognition such as Ray Bradbury, Stephen King or Orson Scott Card, while others may be known mostly to other writers, such as Mary Pipher or Dorothea Brande.

Anyway it is always fun to read comments by other writers, especially when I have a deadline due the next day.

Another item that has been making the rounds of literary journals lately, are lists of writing rules, which seem to conveniently come in quantities of ten. Actually, this is a great concept for readers like myself , who can now browse through a simple short  list instead of tackling  a whole book, just to receive literary advice. I might even get my assignments in  on time.

Recently, February 20, 2010 to be  exact, “The Guardian”, a highly respected British newspaper, has jumped into the game and published several lists of ten from a selected short list of contemporary writers. In an article titled, “Ten Rules For Writing Fiction”, the newspaper has published an online article that features lists from Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James and AL Kennedy. Though not familiar with every name, the lists provided a fun read with some good laughs and sound advice. Here are my personal favorites. Hope you enjoy.

1. The first 12 years are the worst. (Anne Enright)

2.  Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down. (Neil Gaiman)

3.  The two most depressing words in the English language are “literary fiction”. (David Hare)

4. Do not place a photograph of your ­favorite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide. (Roddy Doyle)

5. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk. (Helen Dunmore)

6. Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire. (Geoff Dyer)

7. Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea. (Richard Ford)

8. The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page. (Anne Enright)

9. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. (Margaret Atwood)

10. Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. (Al Kennedy)

extra rule (Elmore Leornard): My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

So there you go. Advice from the experts that is guaranteed to steer you in the right direction. This little tidbit came from an Australian literary agent’s blog, entitled “Call My Agent”, which is an excellent resource for writers, who have completed their first (or second or third) novel and are seeking representation. Check it out.

Have a Merry, Merry, Heavy Metal Christmas

winter light display in Portland, Maine by Everett Autumn Today is Christmas Eve and the Christmas season is almost upon us, for tomorrow begins the twelve days of Christmas. Here in the west we celebrate the holiday on day one (or sometimes Christmas Eve), but go to Eastern Europe and Russia and you will find that Christmas comes at the end of the first week of January, which would right around the twelfth day of Christmas. The more than merrier.

Well anyone, our town, Portland Maine likes to put lights everywhere. Here are some that are descending from the top of the sixth story of the Maine College of Art. They are strung from long lines the traverse the distance.

Speaking of unusual ways of celebrating Christmas, this is the year that I discovered heavy metal Christmas albums. By chance I was in the record store the other day, making my selection, when the clerk drew my attention to the Judas Priest album that was playing. Actually, it was a series of Christmas and seasonal songs recorded by Robert Halford, called “Winter Songs”. The album sounded nice on the store sound system, but I went ahead and purchased Bob Dylan’s Christmas effort anyway.

Since that day I have done a little researching and come across some surprising results; and that my friends, is there are all sorts of folks from Alice Cooper to Twisted Sister have put out at least a few X-mas songs and some have actually completed and released a whole album. Check out Twisted Christmas by Twisted Sister. For those of you who might be interested here is a link to the Houston Press and their choice for five best Heavy Metal Christmas Songs.

My favorite though has to be the Charlie Brown Heavy Metal Christmas with music by Tourniquet. Check it out. It is two and a half minutes of pure pleasure.

And on a final note for those of you who just received a box of candies in the mail from Aunt Ida and Uncle Rico, who you haven’t seen or talked to in ten years, here’s a quick and easy way to respond. Just send them a Jib Jab Christmas card by e-mail.

Merry Christmas from E. Autumn

Return To Salem

Storefront Window in Salem During Haunted Happenings
Storefront Window in Salem During Haunted Happenings

Funky Salem getting ready for Halloween on a rainy Tuesday on the day after Columbus Day. I came here on a mild October afternoon to kill some time before an evening educational event that I was suppose to attend in Boston. This storefront caught my attention and I suppose the colorful mood sets the tone for the craziness that this place sees in the weeks that lead up to the unique Celtic holiday of  All Saints’ Eve, more commonly known as Halloween.

However my main objective for the day was to view the Peabody Essex Art Museum. This I accomplished after laying down a hefty $15 fee and wandering through the huge halls and entranceway.

I have to say that I was not disappointed by my visit to the museum, and in fact I was quite enthralled by some of the exhibitions especially the collection of ship’s figureheads that were prominently displayed within the huge exhibition hall that made a good portion of the second floor.


Here is a picture of the figures that once adorned our fine sailing ships that ventured forth from places like Salem to scour the world in search of riches and fame. These particular wooden creations are some of the most intriguing creations that you will come  across and there position here in the grand hall will take your breath away.

Salem, Massachusetts besides being the site of the famous Witch Trials, which the town still prospers on, was also the home of one of the nation’s first noteworthy novelists, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Nathaniel worked in Salem during the early years of the nineteenth century as a customs clerk. You can still tour the building under the guidance of the National Park Service. At the cost of five dollars this is one of the best deals going for visitors to Salem. The original House of Seven Gables is also situated in town and that place is a good-sized tourist draw in its own rite.

But really makes Hawthorne so interesting is the fact that one of his grandfathers was a judge at the Salem Witch Trials, a dubious honor if there ever was one. The sentences, although somewhat popular at time of the trials , quickly became the subject of much debate, reconsideration and remorse. These last two factors became more important as time went on and may well have played a major role in sending Nathaniel Hawthorne on the road to becoming an important writer and novelist. A carefully chosen walk around town will verify this.

Halloween Masks In a Storefront Window
Halloween Masks In a Storefront Window

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

A GIF Image
A GIF Image

A few weeks I took the local metro bus to one of those large, Walmart-styled book centers, bought myself a large mocha latte and spent several hours browsing the stacks just to see what was new in the publishing world.

I found a book on writing that I liked, so I bought it and brought the book home with me on the bus. It was a witty, sometime feisty treatise and how to negotiate the ups and downs of becoming a writer, written by an interesting young writer from the other coast, Portland, Oregon to be exact. The book has a catchy title too, HOW TO BECOME A FAMOUS WRITER BEFORE YOU’RE DEAD.

Now folks this book is living proof of the old proverb that you should never judge a book by its cover or at least by its title, for despite the title the book is fun romp through the ins and outs of becoming a published author, by an author, Ariel Gore, though successful, not really famous. Her advice is really very practical and down to earth and it comes from an author who had a large book contract come her way at a relatively young age. But this lucrative deal turned out to be a one book deal. And so the story goes from big success to literary survival, which actually was rather simple and straightforward – find a small publisher for your the second, third and fourth published titles.

In fact, this whole literary effort is chock full of sage advice from how to find an agent, how to publicize your latest published effort and even some sage advice on writing. And if you like this piece of writing there is more from the same author, including a fiction effort, THE TRAVELING DEATH AND RESURRECTION SHOW, and a travel memoir, ATLAS OF THE HUMAN HEART, plus some “Hip Mama” titles.

So it just goes to prove you never know what you might find underneath a book with a catchy title .

Best regards from Portland, Maine.

Mark Twain Comes Out With New Unpublished Collection of Essays and Stories

The Hale-Bopp Comet as seen in 1997
The Hale-Bopp Comet as seen in 1997

Samuel Clemens may have died when Haley’s Comet passed by earth on it’s awesome journey nearly a hundred years ago, but Mark Twain lives on, at least in the hearts and minds of readers all around the globe. Next month those of us, who can never get enough of the literary giant will be treated with special release of unpublished short stories next month by the publisher Harper Studio.

In an online article posted a couple of weeks ago by the Guardian Online, it has been announced this collection of unpublished short stories and essays will be released next month in book format. The collection has been edited by Robert Hirsh of the Mark Twain Project and they will be featured this spring in the noted literary magazine, The Strand.

So for you Mark Twain fans, who want to keep reading, next month you will get the chance.

And for all those, who thoroughly enjoy Jack Kerouac, hope is just around the corner in the April release of “The Sea Is My Brother”. This is an unpublished Kerouac novel to be put out by the very same publisher, Harper Studio.