Thanksgiving Edition: I’d Like to Thank the Academy, All The DoGs in the World, and At Least One Texan.

This was my first idea for what the cover of my garden book should look like:

But of course the art department at Bloomsbury had other ideas:

Don’t get me wrong: I like this cover very much (after all, I painted it) and it’s a view of London that has had a special place in my heart for neigh on 15 years (see: page 140 for the whole story). It’s just that for my first two books, the art department at Bloomsbury told me that I could never take an image from the inside of the book and put it on the cover because that’s not how they did things, and so I had to come up with a whole new idea for the cover. And then, for my garden book, the art department insisted on taking an image from inside the book (this image) and put it on the cover. I didn’t argue, I didn’t ask WTF??,  I went home from the meeting and had a big stonking G&T.

Any hoo, it seems that the cover did the trick, the trick being to make everybody in the world want to buy my book, and win me heaps of awards and the love of everyone who was ever mean to me.

Because I just won an award from The Garden Writers of America!

The award came as quite a surprise; it was an ordinary day and I was at home, as usual, catching up on some housework and doing what I have to do in order to get myself in the frame of mind to write my heart out for one more day . . . 

. . . when the prize committee and marching band showed up at the front door and presented me with my Silver Medal:

Actually, the GWA mailed me a certificate, but still.

I did win a silver medal and I can now legitimately call myself a prize-wining garden writer, thank you very much. Pretty good for someone who has never, and will never, garden in the verbal sense of the word. Weeding  and getting my hands dirty and stuff: Ew.

The only other prize I’ve ever won was in 1994 when I entered an art work into a contest sponsored by the historical society that preserves the oldest house in Westchester, New York (The Timothy Knapp House in Rye) and I won Best in Show:

It’s an embroidery, of course, and it shows four seasons at the oldest house in Westchester, NY. It’s big, about 30″ on its longest side.  The society liked it so much that they asked if I would donate it to their collection. Naturally, me being the sweetheart that I am, I gave it to them, happily.

Not long after becoming a prize-wining artist I quit the lucrative business of free-lance fine-art embroidery and entered the field of free-lance writing, where they just throw money at you. Those pennies hurt when lobbed from across an editor’s desk, let me tell you.

While working a glamorous day job in the office administration field (they only throw paper money at you in Corporate America, whew) , I managed to write my first book When Wanderers Cease to Roam, which came out in 2008. I contacted the historical society and reminded them who I was and asked if they would let me hold a book signing in their cute historical building (not the Timothy Knapp House) because the book was all about my life in Westchester and so were they (all about Westchester), and they said no. Me and elephants: we never forget.

So any way, here I am, a prize-wining garden writer of all things, and my most recent book, Gardens of Awe and Folly , is an award-wining travelogue of my adventures in nine of the world’s most thought-provoking gardens. The London chapter sees me in the Chelsea Physic Garden, and not all that happy about it:

Come to think of it, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the Japanese garden either:

In spite of my misgivings about some of the garden experiences I wrote about, nobody has ever mentioned to me that they detect any melancholy in any of the chapters, which I am grateful for because there were parts of this book that I had to write during the very hard time that I was dealing with the death of my DoG and I was very sad.

Boogie Girl: my sweet 17-year old cocker spaniel who I adopted three years ago this month, and was my heart and soul for nine months, two weeks, and a day:

Boogie Girl, in the car on our ride home from the ASPCA in Manhattan. We had known each other for about 30 minutes. I had to pull the car over to the side of Second Avenue and get a hold of my nerves: What on Earth had I got myself into…I just adopted a DoG!!!

Thank you, Boogie Girl, for being my First, and Only, and Best DoG.

Normally, this would be a good place to end a blog post but you know that I can’t let my Dear Readers go without a cat story. And here it is:

Taffy: This folded up cotton sheet is the most beautiful and comfortable place in all the world, for there is no other place as beautiful and necessary as this, even though there is the whole rest of the couch that no kitty is using. :

Lickety: I too think that this folded up cotton sheet is the most beautiful and wonderful place in the world and I would like to take a nap here, and not anywhere else on this empty couch for I am Lickety and there is no other place in all the galaxy that I can nap as peacefully and wondrously as here. RIGHT HERE. :

Taffy: I don’t know, Lickety; it doesn’t seem to me that there is enough of this wondrous and beautiful sheet for two kitties to nap upon and have their fabulous and magical dreams, which is surely what kitties will have, if they rest upon this most beautiful sheet in all the universe. :

Lickety : But there must be room enough for us two here, for there is no other sheet in all the world as beautiful and wondrous as this sheet upon which I have tucked my little kitty feet. :

Taffy: That’s not upon the sheet most magical and mystical (in all down realms of reality or fantasy) upon which you are tucked, Lickety; that’s my feets.:

Lickety: Let me show you how, in the World of Lickety . . .

. . . two kitties can occupy the same space . . .

. . . especially if that space is the space  . . .

. . . upon the most wondrous and fantastical sheet in all the Not-Lickety World. :

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Day weekend, everyone. Thank you for being the Dear Readers that you are — May all your nap times be tucked in with sweet dreams most wondrous and magical. See you back here next Friday.

And Thank You, Karen Fonseca of Fort Bend, Texas, for proving that not all Texans are Drumpf-loving pukes :

33 Comments, RSS

  1. Marg-o

    Thank you for being here the day after a busy holiday with family and too many expectations. I had a nice day but I’m up to my eyeballs in family and it was great to make a cup of tea, close the door to my study, and catch up on you and the cats and your sweet DoG.

    I like both garden book covers. I wold have bought either one. And of course you’re an award wining writer, I gave you my gold medal for humor and heart when I got your first book.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Marg-o, for beating the Garden Writers to the punch. By any chance, does your award come with a crown? I would really like a crown.

  2. Mary Brickman

    OMDOG… I was thinking you wd take the day off, being the day after Jay’s famous turkey feast and family get together. Sorry I missed it.
    I have truly never laughed so hard at pictures and captions of cats and how they behave , as I did with the sheet story. What gorgeous, predictable babies you have. They have a charmed life, as any cat in the realm of your family enjoys . Cat lovers all.
    Cat lovers are a peculiar bunch.
    YOUR BOOKS DESERVE much more. You are a fabulous illustrator, and writer; a combination not seen
    very often.

    We here in southern Florida appreciate the vile words you say about our President ( ugh) and hope to cheer his early retirement before the new year.
    love always,
    fan in Florida …. home of the brave Dems.

    • Vivian

      Thank you for the kind words about my literary legacy. I met a stranger at a party last week and she asked me what I do, and I said, “I write books,” and she asked: “Are you famous?” I was baffled — I’ve never been asked that before — so I said, No, not really…but having thought it cover for a few days I think that if I am ever asked that question again, I will say: Time Magazine told me that they were probably going to make me Person of the Year but I said “probably” isn’t good enough, so I passed. Yes, I’m THAT famous.

  3. Becky

    I laughed …..I cried….This Post is my favorite of all times.
    First of all that is exactly how I clean my house!! You must have seen a painting of me on Instagram cleaning.
    I loved the cover you chose for the book. What does the art department know anyway. How rude of the historical society. Doesn’t it make you want to say ok and can I have my embroidery piece back you creeps.
    Oh that Lickety….I can see he gets his way in all things. Loved that story. It made me laugh so hard. As for dogs they would just sigh, and walk away. I understand your pain. They worm their way into your heart and soul. When I lost my first dog, I was sad for so long. Even though I have this new renegade (she just turned 3) there are times I can’t talk about Molly within tearing up. But I am very smitten with my furry renegade!
    I want that sign on my vehicle too.

    • Vivian

      Yes, all us perfect homemakers clean house in ball gowns because we are CIVILIZED. And oh yes, sometimes a thought of Boogie Girl will come back really strong (usually on a long car drive at night) and I still get tears in my eyes. And Boogie Girl was not an easy DoG to love; or, I should say, she was easy love but very difficult to live with. Does’t matter: she was MY DoG.

    • Vivian

      Monique, merci bien pour tes felicitations. Did you se the news this week, and how der Drumpf’s official liar, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tried to pass of one of your perfect pies as her own? I saw the photo of what she claimed was her home-baked pie, and I thought, No Way; the only person who can make something that exquisite is Monique.

  4. Megan

    Congratulations on your award. I am not a fan of weeding or pruning but unless you have pots of money you do have to get out there and do it yourself… the cats will never help. Clive and Molly hate watching the gardening. OMG why aren;t we inside? They get so very worn out. You have to take your hat off to Karen Fonseca don’t you? So what is the outcome of this I wonder. The constitution seems pretty clear about freedom of speech… so if the right to bear arms is upheld then I think the sign is protected too. She is brave though, wonder how long before someone vandalises her car. Love the cats, if only they had opposable thumbs they could have unfolded the sheet and made it a bit bigger, still they look so happy intertwined. Yes dogs and cats for that matter, glad to have had them in our lives but they do leave a hole when they leave us. Hope someone at the historical society reads this post, they acted very churlishly.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Megan. Here’s something that DoGs can do but cats can’t: DoGs understand human gestures, such as a posted finger…a DoG can follow the clue and look in the direction the human is pointing. If you have ever done this to your cat, you’ve seen the look of utter boredom that they give you, as if insulted that you would flap one of your meaty digits in their vicinity.

      I just tried this on Lickety. I was pointing at the far wall, saying “Look! Lickety, look!” All he did was look deep into my eyes and blink.

  5. Thea

    Congratulations, well earned and deserved. The embroidery is something special, and I know our local art and history center would call themselves fortunate to possess the hand-stitched beautiful like. Those dummies! If they had your good will, they could obtain the rights (royalty to you) and sell cards and calendars and book markers with that art embellishing them. I *hope* someone is reading — they can still invite you to bring a boatload of All the Books and do a read/sign RIGHT NOW in time for the giving season.
    Thank you for giving me a does of quiet joy each Friday, better – yes, better – than a flute of good Champagne. When I combine both the reading and sipping, of course, I feel truly blessed. Oh, and thank you for being so gracious about the activities of our current — oh, no, I can’t write it.
    Thank you. Please keep showering us with your thoughts and talent.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Thea! I haven’t thought about that embroidery work for many years, but maybe I should stop by the old historical society and make sure that haven’t shunted it off to an attic or a basement. And oooooh….I love your idea of pairing champagne with blog-reading. That makes our visit together even more life-like, as I always have something bubbly in the fridge just in case someone I really like stops by.

  6. Casey

    Well finally the Nobel committee got it right. I’m with Marg-o, you have the gold medal in all things artful in my house, too. Congratulations. I wish the awards ceremony was televised, or that they had lots of balloons when they rang your doorbell. That’s how the classy (Publisher’s Clearing House) people do it.

    OMG, the look on Boogie Girl’s face makes me want to cry tears of joy. I know she knew that she was going home where she would be loved until her dying day.

    I read the Taffy/Lickety story twice because those guys make me so happy. I will probably read it again after I send you my comment. They are brothers, right? Taffy is a sweetheart to make room for Licketys ego, but you have to admire Lickety’s sense of self.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Karen Fonseca, and al the Karen Fonsecas of the world.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Casey. Right: Taffy and Lickety are brothers, and Taffy has been putting up with LIckety putting his huge butt wherever he wants to for almost 11 years already. Sometimes Lickety will wash Taffy’s face, so they really do love each other.

  7. Let’s see if you can take me on an emotional roller coaster here — the Cheers! Wow! Joy! moment on your award. They SHOULD recognize you. (Doesn’t mean that’s what always happens!) Well deserved! And then down to the depths with sweet DoG who has this face you fall in love with. I remember when that happened. Well, for a short while she had the best home she could ever have and loads of love. And then the Awww moment. Team Taff-ity have it together. Work together on a wondrous and mystical, fabulous sheet and everyone gets what they want. Big happy smiles!

    May all our dreams come true!

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Jeanie, for your Comment on the wisdom of the Garden Writers of America in choosing the best garden book written by a non-gardener of all of 2016. I so love DoGs, but I have ended up herding cats because that’s who shows up in my backyard in need of warm places to nap.

  8. Congratulations on your award! Writing and illustrating is very hard work. Your skill, creativity and talent is very much appreciated. Boogie Girl looks very sweet and lovable. She will always be in your heart. L & T have the personality plus factor. Determined to make it work! BTW – I love your dusting/cleaning outfit, so retro and totally lovely. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you a belated happy Thanksgiving. Susan

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Susan! I’d like to Welcome you as a new Dear Reader — I’m glad you figured out how to navigate this strange blog and find the right button to join in the conversation.

  9. Kirra

    Congratulations on your award! You deserve the Nobel one as well! I like both covers of your gardening book but isn’t it funny how the directive can suddenly change on you when doing your third book cover. GnT’s are the most sensible option as you pointed out.

    I love your embroidery, and you were very kind to donate it when asked and they were very mean to say no to your local book signing! Hopefully karma will sort them out.

    I love your cat story, thank you Taffy and Lickety for enlightening us. Personally I love dogs and it must have been very sad to say goodbye to Boogie Girl.

    Good luck America and have a good long weekend! Sorry about your president, he’s the worst.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Kirra! Yes, the G&T was a better option than banging my head against the wall. Same things goes for those sickening times when I realize, as if for the first time, that’s it true that der Drumpf is our President. Better go with the G&T than go bang my head against a wall.

  10. Leslie

    The land of the free and the home of the brave…God bless you Karen!
    Congratulations on your award, Vivian. I especially admired the research into the genesis of each garden.
    An artful garden is a miracle of knowledge and patience married with nature. Your stories explain some of that
    magic…and your paintings… Just as travel writing is not only about destinations, garden writing is not solely about plants.
    The writer’s experience becomes the reader’s window. P.S. I never look that good when I am cleaning my house.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Karen; I think it was brave of the Garden Writers to give an award to a non-gardener…gardeners can be a very touchy lot. Heaven forbid you get your purple dead nettle confused with ground ivy.

  11. Linda June

    Congratulations on your award! Well deserved, if you ask me. Love the kitties on the folded up sheet. Cats are so funny–love them all. A dog? Well, ahhhhhh…….ummmmmm….no. Dogs are buddies I guess, but cats are soulmates. And I love gardens! Just don’t want one for myself anymore. Too much work.!

  12. Congratulations on the wonderful award!
    Actually, I do prefer your original choice of cover for book #3 – though Bloomsbury’s choice perfectlyOK.
    Your dear departed dog looks so sweet
    and your cats comical.
    Hope we will see each other before too very long.

  13. As a cat lover, I love and laughed at those pictures of Lickety and Taffy. (I had to go back and re-read to get Taffy’s name as I was about to type Lickety and Split.)

  14. ann

    Congrats on your award. I love all three of your books and their illustrations.

    My husband read your cat story to me with the funny voices. You could be a children’s writer.

  15. Karen

    Dang, those cat pix and text made me laugh! The essence of cat-ness. And to top off, the Trump bumper sticker. Keep it coming. And, congratulations on the award!

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