Say There, Sir or Madame, Will You Read My Book? It Took Me Years To Write It, Will You Take A Look?

Sometimes you get something in your snail mail that isn’t junky:

Last week my American publisher sent me the brand new Korean edition of my last book, Gardens of Awe and Folly!

I did something in that book that I didn’t do in the two previous books, which was design it so that text was dropped onto and incorporated into full-page illustrations, so I was curious to see how the Korean edition would handle that:

Yes, the English text that appears over the top corner of this watercolor illustration of Karen Kersting’s rose garden in New Orleans was miraculously changed into Korean. Well done, 내 친구들.

Seeing this new version of my book reminds me how much work it takes to put a book together. And it reminds me how I better get cracking on that invention that I dream about, the Book That Writes Itself.  That would make like so much easier for yours truly.

I am half way there …  in that I have an app that promises to take care of the part of book-making that I call illustration. Yes! There’s an app that lets a book illustrate itself!

It’s called Waterlogue and here’s how it works:

Take a photograph of a scene that you want to paint itself (saving you, of course, the bother of getting all that watercolor equipment in line, the paints; the paper; the brushes; the jar of water that needs constant changing; the sense of dread and doom that you are going to have to paint this thing over and over again until you get it right; etc.

You run this photograph through the app and voila:

For comparison, here’s how this scene looks in Gardens of Awe and Folly:

I painted my scene (above) from a reference photograph that I took on a foggy Fall morning. I can’t find the exact reference photo in my files, but here’s what the place looked like last October:

That huge gnarly Copper Beech was cut down, having become too fall-aparty to be safe anymore. *Sigh* The guys with the choppers will come for us all, eventually.

Here’s a nice view in Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France (taken on my last visit, in May 2015):

Here is the illustration that I painted over the course of three of four painful afternoons:

I don’t like this pic. It is not included in my Monet book. If I had guts, I’d re-paint it but yeesh…that’s a lot of work. I’d really prefer it if the photo would paint itself.

And presto — here’s the Waterlogue app doing its thing:

Oh, crud. Looks like I’ll be hammering this picture out with my own two hammy fists.

Speaking of using my split writer/illustrator personality in the real world, I will be a hard-working Writer this September and October, leading four workshops at the Bryant Library in Roslyn, NY. The workshops are free, and open to all interested parties on the second and fourth Thursday evening in each month, from 7 – 9.

In my workshops I will learn you on identifying your voice; on understanding what your story is (is it a short story?…is it an episodic memoir?…is a confessional?…is it an 80,000 word novel?); on how to best communicate that story to your readers — in fact, on acknowledging that you are in fact writing for readers who you must visualize and take into account with every word you write. I will make you self-conscious as an observer of life so that you understand that life is what gives you copy.

I will urge you go to your local Walmart, your local grocery store, your nearest bus stop; I will make you report back to the workshop at least three overheard conversations that you gathered on your new role as a writer, a snoop, an observer of the human condition.

I will introduce you to the realities of the writing life: Are you ready for what it takes to prepare your writing for publication? (Because in my experience, something’s got to give for you to achieve your writing goals. For instance, I had to give up watching Dr. Phil every afternoon in order to meet my daily goal…sad, but true.)

Me, being all author-ish and talky, in front of people sitting in chairs in a room with a lot of books.

And if I can’t build me a Robot-Vivian between now and September,  this will indeed be me, in the flesh, talking about how to write for publication.

I know you are, like me, in awe of the successful rescue operation in Thailand that got all those kids and their soccer coach out of that dastardly cave. The rescue was nothing short of miraculous. The rescuers are heroes, straight up. It was a marvelous story.

But can I tell you a story of my own, please?

One day, when my brother was three years old, my parents had to rush him to the hospital. Why?

Because, prior to the fun rush to the hospital, my parents had thought that my brother was sitting happily in the driveway, amusing himself by playing with his Matchbox cars. But no, my brother had grown bored with his Matchbox cars  so what he was actually doing while sitting in the driveway was playing with all the little pebbles that had accumulated on the edge of the blacktop. Specifically, he was taking those little pebbles and, one by one, he was stuffing them up his nose. That is, until he had reached maximum stuffage, nose-wise, and began to cry because, I can only assume, having a nose packed full of little pebbles is somewhat uncomfortable.

The pebbles could only be extracted by a professional with a very long, slender, needle-nosed tool in the emergency room of Abington Hospital in Ambler, PA. Hence, the frantic car ride to our local hospital.

Now, you might wonder, Why would your brother pack his nose full of little pebbles from the driveway?

Good question. And, as best as I can figure, he did it because boys are stupid and they do stupid things, like pack their noses full of little pebbles, for no good damn reason.

The same way they go hiking in caves that are preposterously narrow, horrifyingly twisting, pitch-black dark, atmospherically foul, and fill with water when it rains (and it rains a lot in Thailand this time of year).

(In the above scenario, the soccer coach is my brother, and the kids on his team are the willing little pebbles that the soccer coach stuffed up the nose of the cave.)

That’s all I’m saying.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Here’s some photos Dennis staying cool on the north shore of Long Island last week,  to get you off to a good start:

Dear Readers, may all your noses remain pebble-free, may all your explorations be to clean, well-lighted places.


11 Comments, RSS

  1. Kirra

    Congratulations on the Korean edition of Gardens of Awe and Folly! I love the cover painting. I also think your paintings are rather better that the waterlogue app, but I can understand sometimes when they’re good it must seem like a lot of effort. The cave rescue was truly amazing, such a strange intriguing story and so good that they were all rescued safely. Your younger brother story was pretty classic! Thanks for the Dennis the cat photos, have a good weekend too!

  2. I agree. I was thrilled they were rescued but kept saying “What were they thinking, going in there?” I think some of those kids will be living with ptsd fo a long time.

    About the waterlogue. I’ve seen some wonderful ones, true. Since I have no device that does these, yet, I’ve not used. But I have to say in all honesty that there is no comparison between your Monet and theirs. I know you don’t like yours but look at it and compare. Yours is so much better — more vibrant, more detailed without being fussy. I do think I’d find them helpful, though, for ME, in terms of seeing my image as a looser form and working from that instead of the photos.

    Three cheers on Korean Awe and Folly! And I wish I lived in your hood and I’d be first to sign up for the class. I love listening to conversations… great idea!

  3. Bunny

    I wholeheartedly agree with Kirra, your efforts are a million times better than the app, although it seems like a good idea, in theory, this is just another thing we think computers can do, but in reality, there’s nothing like the real thing, baby. Your artwork is actual artwork, creatively adapted to your psyche. Not just a push of a button, and out comes some random, blotchy mess. Reminds me of when I was a kid, we had the spin art, placed the paper on a spinning wheel, and squeezes different colored bottles of paint onto the canvas.

    About these boys: I’m not sure that this is actual news. IMHO, they should have let them save themselves if they want to walk this earth another day, man up, and learn how to swim. If they lose a few, so what! (jklol)
    If it wasn’t such a slow time of the summer, when most people are on vacation, we wouldn’t have even noticed that these boys were missing. And the circus regarding the “rescue” was a bit overdone. Cameras, heavy equipment, charts, graphs, oh pulease, someone get me a tissue. Many, many countries chiming in, and helping out: if we spent half as much time and effort into a peaceful solution in many of the war-torn areas around the world, including the middle east, maybe we’d have some semblance of order. Lets let half the world step up, send troups, and stop the fighting/strife, around the world. Why should Der Drumphf have all the fun, then get all the credit for saving the boys, and then the world. He’s doing such a great job in North Korea, he can fix just about anything. So what, if he stiffs the contractors? The boys will be saved, and there will be peace on the Korean peninsula, and the nukes will disappear once and for all.
    And of course, we’ll have peace in the middle east. We can get Don Jr, and his new girlfriend to broker a deal.

    Happy Friday the 13th.

  4. Carol

    Is it wrong that your story about your brother with the nose full of pebbles made me laugh? My brother was 11 when he broke his arm jumping off the roof of our garage. You guessed it. He was trying to fly. I had no sympathy for him because 11 is far too old to be indulging in magical thinking.

    I attended a workshop you gave at Hofstra University about four years ago. I was so inspired! You were fun and funny and mostly I learned how to hang in there until the writing is *finished*. That’s always been the hardest part for me so thank you for “learning” me how to get past my discouragement and laziness to see a project all the way to the end.

  5. Susan

    I can understand that the app would make life easier…but your paintings are far superior! Your lecture/course on authorship sounds fabulous. Oh yes, boys do foolish/stupid/dangerous/life threatening things. Like your brother’s act, my neighbor’s son and nephew (7 years old) decided to crawl through a drain pipe under our private driveway. One boy got stuck in the middle! Luckily, one boy was able to push the other through the pipe to the other end. Dennis looks quite happy lounging in the heat.

  6. Becky

    Your paintings are so much better than the computer generated ones. You can feel the love you have for each place that you share. Apps aren’t everything.
    The rescue of those boys had me a nervous wreck. Kids do stupid stuff because they haven’t reached the point where they realize that they are mortal. I was so relieved that they and the coach were able to get out.
    That Dennis is quite the cutie.

  7. Karen

    Tell Dennis he has a home here if he ever tires of you (unlikely). He is too cute.

    I’m glad you remarked on how stupid it was that the boys went exploring. I can say that now that they are rescued, but I was thinking. My husband, of course, doesn’t get it.

  8. As you have so ably demonstrated, Waterlogue (although very cool) is not a substitute for a human artist!

    That story about your brother is hilarious. I’ve heard of kids putting ONE pebble up their nose, but never many, many pebbles!

  9. Judy Jennings

    Vivian, your paintings are totally superior to Waterlogue. Don’t use them! What I did discover is that when Beth took me to Oceanside, Oregon last month, I could use the app to “show me” where I needed certain color or highlights in my painting. I’m a great copier but can never figure out for myself HOW to get the effect I want.
    I thought of you today when I drove past the cutest cottage of a house, and there in the window, totally behind the curtains, was a cat all stretched out and watching the world. So cozy looking. ?
    PS. B and R are in Zim for a month. ?

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