Thursday, June 19, 2008

World Enough and Time

Around the World in 114 days

It was a mild January afternoon in 2007. My husband Bill and I were rocking on the front porch, enjoying the last rays of a Savannah sunset when he asked, “When is your next book for Charlesbridge due?”

“I’m just beginning the sketches for Plant Secrets and final art is due in November,” I replied.

He asked what my schedule was after that. I told him I had quite a while before my next project. I looked at him quizzically and said, “Why do you ask?”

“Our fortieth anniversary is next year. How would you like to spend it in Venice?”

“Sounds great,” I replied.

He then said it would take a while to get there. In fact it would take months! He was proposing we go on a four month around-the-world cruise. I could hardly wrap my mind around such a possibility. I’m the type you might describe as a homebody. I love the life we are enjoying since my husband’s retirement and subsequent move from Connecticut to an island on the coast of Georgia. I have a fabulous art studio where I write and illustrate children’s books, paint landscapes, pet and people portraits, and teach an occasional art class. Not to say I don’t enjoy travel. We have done quite a bit over the years, but never much longer than two weeks. As an artist and writer I had to consider the insights and inspiration such a life altering experience would offer. To Bill’s delight, I found myself saying, “Why not!"

On January 4th we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Fort Lauderdale to begin Holland America’s Golden Anniversary Odyssey, World 2008 Grand Voyage. Our first stop was Grand Cayman, where I visited a butterfly farm while Bill snorkeled. We continued on to Costa Rica, then into the Panama Canal. My engineer husband was fascinated with the complexity of the locks.

During eight days in the Pacific we enjoyed ship life, lectures, shows, learning Tai Chi, making friends, and I even worked on sketches for my next book. Finally, “Land ho!” The South Pacific islands like, Tahiti, Moorea, and Tonga were enchanting. The people were friendly and happy with their simple life style. I did a drawing of a lovely young girl in Samoa. It is easy to see why so many artists and writers found inspiration in these tropical paradises.

We were anxious to get to our four ports in New Zealand. From the rolling hills of sheep farms, and the incredible seal, albatross and gannet colonies along the rocky shores, to the spectacular Fiord Lands, it did not disappoint us.

Our itinerary included three ports in Australia. Since many of my books celebrate wildlife, I enjoyed the variety of weird animals like the Tasmanian devil and wombat.

Continuing on to Indonesia, I particularly liked Bali where it seemed everyone was an artist. In Brunei, which is part of Borneo, I entered our first mosque, with headscarf, bare feet, and in a modified burqa!

Although Hong Kong and Singapore are a shopper’s delight, I preferred ports where we could mingle with simple people. For that reason I loved Vietnam. My fondest memory is of the happy children in a little village next to a rice field. They were anxious to meet us and practice some English words. A young father brought his baby out to show us.

India was a study in contrasts of modern and ancient, rich and poor, but always colorful and vibrant. We visited Hindu and Buddhist temples in Chennai and viewed an immense open air laundry in Mumbai.

Oman and Egypt brought us back to Biblical times. It is impossible to describe the immense impact of the pyramids and tombs of pharaohs. I have always been in awe of the sophistication of art and architecture in past millennia.

I can’t mention here all our ports, but we traveled through the Suez canal, into the Black Sea, to Sochi, Russia (where I practiced the little bit of Russian I knew) and Sevastopol, Ukraine, Istanbul, Turkey, Santorini, Greece, and finally to Venice for two days to celebrate our 40th in a romantic city. I had studied art in Italy in my senior year of Rhode Island School of Design, so Italy is very special to me.

After Lisbon and Madeira, our Atlantic crossing was calm and relaxing and a time to reflect on all that we had seen and look at our thousands of digital photographs. As we entered New York the sun was rising behind the familiar skyscrapers. Lady Liberty’s glowing torch welcomed us back. We had been a speck circumnavigating this wonderful blue-green globe suspended in the vast universe. We were Americans, but now felt like citizens of the world.

Posted by author/illustrator Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Practicing What We Publish

Friday the 13th was a lucky day for the Watertown banks of the Charles River. The hardworking staff of Charlesbridge picked up their sticks with pointy things on the end and put on their gardening gloves to pick up trash that mysteriously collects around the river.

Inspired by April Pulley Sayre's Trout Are Made of Trees, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and in celebration of American Rivers' National River Clean Up, Charlesbridge staff made a day of it down the road at the riverside putting right what once went wrong and enjoying a beautiful day outside.

The Charles River, which begins at Echo Lake in Hopkinton, MA, snakes about 80 miles through eastern Mass before emptying into the Boston Harbor. It has a great history of industry and travel, and today is a major source of recreation--most notably the Head of the Charles Regatta held every October.

The river is home, or provider, for many native plants and animals... although not trout according to Richard, our DCR guide. Ah well, bass are made of trees, also. At Charlesbridge, we enjoy having the river, and the walking trail around it, right across the street. We don't just like to publish books about nature, we actually like nature!

Here, Erin wins the Deep Woods Off Award for going deepest into the foliage.

Even our fearless leader talks trash.

Editorial Director Yolanda LeRoy sifts through the muck and the mire.

After ridding our beautiful river of unwanted debris, we had a pizza picnic in the park by the river. And we picked up all our trash. Carry in, carry out!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Charlesbridge goes west

Enjoy this past due review of BEA... well, at least I got to it before ALA happened.

BEA is always a great show. There are so many different reasons to attend: introduce the new fall books that we're excited about, meet old friends and catch up on what's happening in bookstores and libraries around the country, meet new friends and business partners and hopefully impress the living dickens out of them with our books and gracious manners, visit with friends at other publishers and walk around their booths stealing ideas, have meaningful conversations with authors and illustrators (both on our list and not on our list), and travel to exotic locales like the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Meg and Taylor and I enjoyed L.A. so much, we think it's high time Charlesbridge opened a West Coast office. Here, Meg and I discuss the finer points of sales and marketing at our new beach front office space in Santa Monica.

And Taylor works on the new catalog cover.

The absolute best day of BEA (certainly no offense to the other days) is Thursday. That's the ABC New Voices luncheon. This year's speakers included the inspiring and delightful Cecilia Galante whose new book The Patron Saint of Butterflies is a fascinating story of two best friends, one of whom is devoted to their religious cult upbringing, and the other is not. We had the opportunity to meet Cecilia on Friday night at the ABC Not a Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction. Cecilia is a smart and funny new voice not to be "new" for long as she'll be most likely be turning up a lot.

The best part of Thursday, though, is that after the luncheon, we were free to go shopping in Hollywood as the booth was all set up and there were no pressing meetings to attend. Here, we found the footprints of homeboy Matt Damon at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

This year we were ever so lucky to be accompanied by children's lit great Jane Yolen. Her new book Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World is new this July. Jane knew everyone, or, more to the point, everyone knew Jane. We were never wall flowers with Jane on our arm. The best part was when we made her climb the only hill in downtown Los Angeles to go to dinner at an Italian restaurant that shall remain unnamed. The doorman assured us it was walking distance. I suppose if you're really fit and looking for a challenge on an empty stomach. And, even though I did really love L.A., how come the entire city only exists on the inside? We could not find that restaurant for the life of us because it was tucked away inside some insidiously discreet hotel courtyard. And, don't ask for the water.

And, yes, we did work the booth also:

And this lame (but funny) video. I haven't quite figured out my new camera.

Posted by Donna... sorry.