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To some people it’s a work-in-progress. To others it’s just a good place to park a butt.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, to take a break from my back breaking cat wrangling/book writing duties. I’ve worked very hard, very very hard on my rehab to get my busted knee to bend j-u-s-t enough to be able to sit in the front seat of our car so off we went, for a little trip down the New Jersey Turnpike!!! My first car trip in six weeks!!!

“Hi it’s me. Nothing much, how’re you? I’m in the car. The car. No, the CAR. No, the other car. Not much. Thought I’d give you a call, see what’s up. Me too, same old same old. Oh! I forgot! I KNEW there was something very important I had to tell you asap! I got bangs! No, not like that, more like Olivia Newton John in Grease. Ooops — just hit a pot hole…damn lousy cup holders… Gotta go. Just spilled my beer — bye for now.

I call (above) this “Turnpikin’ in Pink”: pink sunglasses, pink watch band, pink polka dots on her GODDAMN CELL PHONE.

i can drive w/ no handz no eyes lol

And, inspired by watching this girl text for about fifteen miles I call this, “Another Reason To Never Leave the House Ever Again”.

No thanks to my fellow Americans, I survived the journey to Washington D.C. and back (Yay! I got a new brother-in-law!!!). It never hurts to get some distance on your work in progress, but next time I’ll know better and pack a blindfold  to get me through the Garden State.

Last week I mentioned a narrative concept I call Irving. Along those lines, this week I want to show you a visual columnist called Paul Madonna and his art journal titled Everything Is Its Own Reward:

Paul Madonna produces two weekly strips, ALL OVER COFFEE in the San Francisco Chronicle and on, and SMALL POTATOES on, where he is also comics editor. This book is a collection of his one-panel drawings from 2006 – 2011.

As you can see, his book is bound horizontally so that his narrative scrolls from top to bottom, an interesting way to reproduce the experience of his internet work:

Paul Madonna has deliberately set out to write stories (he calls them stories; I call it narrative because I like fancy words) that have no Irvings. His stories are designed to hold his readers’ attention for just a few seconds, engage them in a very fleeting but profound experience that incorporates image with a message that is personal, sincere, and above all mutual between the artist and the reader. Some of his stories are longer than the few sentences you see here (above), but none of them carry over from one page to the next, so no need to write those workman-like sentences (Irvings) to link one scene to another.

It’s very tricky to pull this off — no, your own melodramatic stream-of-consciousness will not suffice — so to see how Mr. Madonna achieves this for 220 pages is like being given a road map on how to take your art journaling to another level. Also, there’s a lengthy Afterword by the author that explains in detail what his goals are as a storytelling artist.

Here’s my favorite page:

She squinted into the sun to avoid

the recurring and overwhelming fear that

when the aliens came, they’d land in a city other than her own.

Or worse — not in her lifetime.

How could she go on, knowing that another generation might experience what she herself could only dream of?

When it comes to delivering a reading experience it’s obvious that my strategy is very different from Mr. Madonna’s strategy, but this does not mean that I can not admire, value, and learn from his work. Above all, he has that rarest of writerly qualities, a point of view — and that is worth respect. You might want to check out Everything Is Its Own Reward, even if only to see what it’s like to read out of your comfort zone. It can’t hurt.

And now for something completely different:

As you might have noticed, this is the Prize-Giving Season (MacArthur Genius, Nobel, National Book, Pulitzer, etc.). I check my email every five minutes to see if I have been recognized for my contribution to the culture YET but so far all I’ve received are the usual invitations to meet fellow Christian Singles or recover a multi-million dollar inheritance in Nigeria. Frankly, the snubs are beginning to get on my nerves.

Dear Readers, I need a prize. Even if it’s for Best Work of Hand-Lettering by a Left-Handed Artist in the Tri-State Area, or Order of Merit in Gratitude For Not Writing Poetry. I want to send out a press release alerting the media that Some People Think I Don’t Suck. I want to forever after add the words “Prize Winning Author” in front of my name.

 What’s Elfriede Jelinek got that I haven’t got? Besides a Nobel Prize for Literature, I mean.

So, if anybody out there feels like awarding me a prize, you know, because you like the stuff I do, please feel free to alert me with your Comment below. My acceptance speech is already written.


12 comments to I’d like to thank the Academy…

  • Sally

    ANNOUNCING! The winner of the “Sally from the People’s Republic of Cambridge (MA) award for the only-est blog she finds worth reading regularly ” IS: ta da, Vivian Swift. Alas, there is no cash prize associated with this award, but if the winner wishes to e mail me a snail mail address, a card with a print of the awarding agent’s original artwork will be sent.

    Re: paint big, reproduce small. Works for me. It’s hard to believe you’ve done such nice stuff in the past working Triscuit- small, but I think you will like the results of taking the time to work larger. I really like the new version of the garden through the doorway.

    Re: Irvings: SSSSsssshhh! Don’t tell us! I’ve assumed each and everything that has come from your brush has been done with the same degree of mental and emotional involvement. I am not bored looking at any of your transitions. In fact, I didn’t KNOW there were transitions. Please keep the magician’s secrets secret.

    Oh, and congratulations on your award.

  • Deborah

    Vivian Swift has been selected to receive the 2012 Sunnyside* Award of Excellence. A life-sized Blue Jay statue will be presented to the author/artist/naturalist/humorist to acknowledge her excellency and hard work.

    * They call where I live the Sunnyside of Louisville.

  • Carol

    The cell phone thing, I think it is a new disease one that has been growing rapidly in the past 10 years. Thank heaven I have not caught it yet. I cannot imagine the struggles of living with it.

    What’s Elfriede Jelinek got that I haven’t got?
    A red bandana and pig tails, isn’t that obvious!

    That will have to do for the time being.
    I once saw on someone’s blog
    Perhaps you could work a deal?

  • SO, I’m pretty positive that the lady in that first car picture is wearing the SAME EXACT pair of Barbie sunglasses that Gracie has in her dress up drawer. I’m serious.

    And what is it with texting and driving? I have no idea how anyone can think this is acceptable. I mean, when I started driving, no one told me I could READ in the car. In fact, I was told that was on the list of things to NEVER do while you are operating a motor vehicle. But reading something on a tiny screen AND typing back a response on an even tinier keyboard is okay? I don’t understand. When did it happen?! Why does this make sense to anyone?

    I have to admit I saw a lady BEADING- making a beaded object- with a bead board balanced on her lap and everything, while driving. It was astonishing.

  • We do love you, we really do love you! You should win every award out there for illustrated travel books. I, like you, was totally passed over for the Nobel this week, shocking.

  • Rachel

    Just a recommendation to follow up with Sally. I know the woman and her awards are highly sought after and rara avis. From here in San Diego, you get the tres amusement award of the decade, since I always leave your blog with a smile on my face. Take care, get well soon, stay out of NJ and, hey, a new BIL is no small potatoes. :-)

  • When you come out (last, of course) the applause intensifies quite a bit, and hoots and WOOs and stamping begin to echo around the theater. A smiling stage manager dashes out to present you with an enormous, fragrant, many-colored bouquet. Attached to the bouquet is a square, calligraphed card.

    Cries of “READ IT!”

    In a low, rich voice that brings the crowd to instant and absolute silence, you read,


    And the crowd goes wild.

  • Ditto, ditto and ditto! I agree with all the awards listed above! You highly deserve them all.

  • Christine

    The “I Did It My Way” Award.

  • The Paul Madonna book reminds me (from the bit I see here, I should say) of “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” – a picture book from the 1980s by Chris Van Allsburg. Just the kind of quirky/spooky non sequiturs I love.

    All hail Vivian, Queen of the Cat Colony, and Authoress of the Oblong.


    Keep painting and writing, and acclaim will surely come your way. Right…?

  • What TIME is the new post up?
    I want to be 1st on :)

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