Foiled Again!

Kerry ODay

I can't even exactly remember when I met Kerry ODay, AKA Mamallamadevil. I'm fairly certain that the_gneech and Bill Holbrook where sitting, or standing near her, beckoning me over, waving their arms and shouting, "Hey, you! Check out this really neat person!" But it's as if there was a time before Kerry where there was only childhood and school and floundering, and then there was all of the time after meeting Kerry where there was a second childhood full of discovery, success, new things learned, and a greater sense of confidence. In between those two periods is an event horizon shrouded by the mists of time, and perhaps a Long Island Iced Tea, wherein I met Kerry. From what I've been reading, I am not alone in this phenomena. My theory is that Kerry's very being pulled us in and filled all of the spaces that needed filling, making it seem like she'd been there the whole time.

Kerry was my friend, my cohort, my nails & cheesecake buddy, my advisor and Energizer battery, my business partner who refused pay, and my personal ass-kicker.

I was her friend, her cohort, her nails & cheesecake buddy, her advisor and reminder to slow down once in awhile, and one of the few people who could tell her things, or pinch her cheek without getting her head or hand clean bitten off. That's how good a person she was; a clean bite heals much faster.

The Kerry Phenomena, I think, will work both ways. Kerry is gone, but not really. She exists in the spaces between fear and self-doubt, and ourselves, bravely fighting them off while we push forward to make our rightful claim to the thrones that await us.

I'm very sorry that this is all such a shock for so many of you who didn't even know she was sick. Kerry was fiercely independent and fiercely private and, well... Fierce. Things were looking quite good for her, actually. We honestly thought that if anyone was going to beat cancer back into the dark and pitiful corner it comes from with a withering glare and a sharp, "GIT ATTA HERE!", it'd be Kerry.

Please know and believe when I tell you that she knew how much we all loved her.

I'm making a gift for her and her family, a token of our love and appreciation, and I need your help. If you draw, I need your b&w/limited color sketch of a bunny, a pooka, or a jackelope with a little message. If you write, a poem or paragraph or song. You needn't be the best at it. Creations that come from the heart are perfect at any skill level. The drawings and writings will go into 2, 5x7" books. One will go with Kerry and one with her family.

Because I don't have the details of final arrangements as yet, I am assuming that time is of the essence, hence the limit on color work. The less I need fuss with the printing the better.

You may email any creative tributes you'd like to make to suerankin at suerankin dot com If there is time and you wish to send the original along for her book as well, I will provide you an address.

Be well, all of you. And thank you for being a part of Kerry's life.
Foiled Again!

Thoughts on PiBoIdMo and The Picture Book Academy

My first PiBoIdMo has come and gone and with it, the Picture Book Academy course I took concurrently with the delightful Mira Reisberg. I learned quite a few things from both:

First, when I try to force out ideas, they usually stink! At least that was the case this year. Since PiBoIdMo ended, I’ve had only 2 ideas, but they’ve been really strong ones! I’m pretty sure that it’s because A) the pressure of a daily idea is now off and B) the relief of that lack of pressure has made me uncurl from the little ball of stress and I’m now open to the ideas that flow in freely from images, or snippets of conversation. In short, I’ve learned what my current idea generating pattern is: Relax, feed my head, and listen.

Secondly, I’ve started to hone in on the kind of books I want to write. This is a lot like finding your “voice”, but voice can be applied to nearly any kind of book really. I mean, I can write about manners and numbers and letters, but is it really what I want to do? I wrote a story about covering sneezes and I like it a lot. I’m still fiddling with the form and trying to get that word count in the area of 600 words, or less, and while it’s funny, which I like, and I think it’s worthy of publishing, it may not be my ultimate book path. This brings me to the second thing I learned: You will only know what you enjoy writing when you have written and written a lot. Turns out I enjoy onamonapia, alliteration, character-driven plots that are meaningful, and, dare I say it, rhyming.

(I’ve been trying to avoid rhyming. It’s the thing that makes editors and publishers cringe and groan and not want to even look and you’d better be spot on, or they won’t. So… since my latest idea and its sibling are in rhyme, you’d better believe I will work and rework it until it’s as perfect and pleasantly readable as I can make it and that it has a reason that makes it essential for it to rhyme.)

The third thing I learned, and this also has to do with activity outside of PiBoIdMo and PBA, is that it’s really, really important to find the right critique group. The right critique group knows the Sandwich Form of Critiquing (lead in with a compliment, go to a problem/possible negative, and finish with another positive and encouragement.). The right critique group gets that your subject matter may not be their favorite, but also gets that theirs may not be yours! And regardless, everyone agrees to give a critique and not instructions on how to rewrite the story so that it’s more in line with their own personal likes. They also understand the format rules, namely the word count limitations of whichever genre they’re focusing on. I have once been guilty of submitting something WAY over word count, because I didn’t realize the group was for Picture Books. I was helpfully steered to a Middle Grade group for that manuscript and later submitted a PB manuscript to the first group. A misunderstanding like that once is forgivable, but knowingly committing repeat offenses is a surefire way to build resentment and pretty much ensure that people will not have the time or desire to read and critique your 1600 word picture book manuscript.

I’m sure I will continue to work with Mira and I do recommend her courses as she is overflowing with knowledge on the subject and has a beautiful smile and spirit to boot! Depending on what the next year brings, I plan to do PiBo IdMo again to test how my idea generating process will have grown. Unless of course, I have a mega picture book deal and I’m just too busy!

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

[ Published from Susan Rankin-Pollard Illustrations and Stuff. You can comment here or there. ]
Foiled Again!

Getting Settled Can Be Unsettling

It’s amazing how much of your life can be eaten up by a slow move into a new home. It’s even more, shall we say, _interesting_ when you’ve accepted a wedding invitation on the opposite coast and you stay for a week because, well, they’re your old friends and, gosh darn it, you rarely ever see them! So between the end of LA SCBWI 12 and the 15th of this month, I was frantically trying to pack down as much of my home studio and personal belongings as I could. I didn’t quite get all of the studio. Personal stuff? Nada.

Off I went to New York where another frantic time was had. My hostess and friend since second grade did not have a dress yet and I still needed shoes. Both were accomplished just under the wire, including major alterations in less than 24 hours on my friend’s dress. We got to the wedding in New York from Northern New Jersey with not a moment to spare, which means that, because we could walk to the venue, I did so in sneakers rather than the high heels and pictures were snapped by the photographer before I had a chance to change them! Later, I met one of the staff in the restroom who said, “Oh! You’re the lady with the sneakers!” But props to children’s book illustrator AJ Smith for finding me a spot to sit and change my shoes and even tied the satin ribbons into pretty bows when I couldn’t quite reach them due to the sofa being a bit deep. Andy was my Hero of the Day!

The wedding was funny and touching and loud and fun. Before long, it was time for me to leave old friends and their families again and head back to California to finish packing and get moving, as it were.

My first trip back to the new house after returning from LA SCBWI 12 held a BIG surprise! In addition to the foundation, plumbing, and electrical work, Phil had had the floors throughout the house sanded and refinished! I was speechless. I teared up. Honest. I had been getting bummed out as I packed more and more boxes about the idea of not being able to afford to do it in time for us to move in and having to move everything back out again the following Spring. I was already bummed enough that the unfinished attic, when finished, would not have enough standing height to be a studio, but compared to the idea of moving in, then out, then back in again? Ugh! So, yeah. Tears. Happy, relieved tears.

I had another surprise when I got back from New York: My studio had all of my furniture in it! Before I’d left, we’d only moved in my drawing table, a seat, and the tall taboret. Very sparse. We’d also moved the bed, the table and most of its chairs, the rocking chair, and two low-slung wing-back chairs. Oh, and mostly filled the storage portion of the garage with boxes. But now…! Now I have a studio!

Sort of.

I can’t actually sit in there are work and work out getting comfy and into a routine and things on the walls yet, because… Because the floor is so nice I need to protect it with rugs and carpet pads from the wheels on my chairs. Remember that bit about me being picky? And about how moving eats up your time? I’m hoping to check second hand shops this weekend for small, persian rugs.

All of this is merely delaying the inevitable:

Getting comfortable enough in the studio to settle into a productive routine, so that creativity has something to return to when it chooses to come back.

I keep finding myself wanting to work, not being able to work, and when I sit down to sketch instead, … nada. For now, I’m forgiving myself for this because I have a lot of Getting To Know Myself to do. This was repeated a few times at LA SCBWI and I thought about it a good while a few times. The fact that I can’t sit down and just automatically sketch my favorite thing tells me that I don’t have a favorite thing. That is unsettling.

But it’s ok. I now have a quiet home in a house I love and a good neighborhood. I have access to all sorts of community art activities, like life drawing and painting seminars, and the local library branch. I don’t have any interruptions or distractions, save for a Facebook habit (I’ll work on that.).

With the work of the change of environment basically done, now begins the work on the self and seeing just what I have to share with the rest of the world.

[ Published from Susan Rankin-Pollard Illustrations and Stuff. You can comment here or there. ]
Foiled Again!

Sunday Pork and Rigatoni

While on a recent trip to Vegas with my husband and two dear friends, we happened upon, of all things, Martotano’s at The Rio hotel and casino. Steve Martotano has taken South Philly food to a higher level and when I saw Sunday Pork and Rigatoni on the menu I HAD to try it. Sunday Pork with Rigatoni is probably one of many dishes in the arsenal of the South Philly Grandma that is falling by the wayside with our modern lives being so busy and having become more and more processed and quick in terms of the food we eat. But I remember the occasional Sunday dinner like so many other kids had so often.

Many of those few, big Sunday dinners were at my aunt’s house. This was my Mom’s sister, who married italian, gave me 3 cousins and they stayed in Southwest Philly. My parents chose to move to the ‘burbs, so we didn’t see them all that often. It made those childhood get togethers all the more special. Mom grew up down the street and her side is slavic. Her mother far outlived her father and died when I was almost 3, so while I have a couple of distinct memories of Baba, I’ve no real food association with her. Dad often throws a pork chop into his pasta gravy and Grandma (Dad’s Mom) always made her own. We may be of german and irish descent, but when you’re from South Philly, like my parents are, it doesn’t matter

Ordering that dish turned out to be just the thing to really lift my spirits after 2 whirlwind days of walking around to see as much as we could while dealing with crowds, lines, noise and lots of lights. Remember in Ratatouille when the critic asks for perspective and he Gets It? It was like that. I can count on one hand the number of times that food has had an impact anything like this and this one blew them all away. I can’t really remember what the others were. That may be because the drinks there are also VERY good.

Before the meal was over, I had decided that, since I couldn’t take the leftovers back to San Jose with me, I was going to make it when I got back there. I did a little searching online and found just about the recipe I was looking for over at That’sNotWhatTheRecipeSays! That’s a blog which is now forever bookmarked to read on my I Have No Brain, Let’s Read Blogs Days.

The following recipe, which I’ve chosen to post on my Dad’s birthday, includes a few tweaks and, since I prefer to use a slow cooker (I love the one from William-Sonoma that my roommate has), I’ve included the cook times and temperatures for it. I hope you enjoy it as much I still am. I just had some for lunch!

South Philly Sunday Pork with Rigatoni
Serves 6 adults for 2-3 days. Hey, it’s a Sunday Dinner sized recipe!

4 – 5 pound boneless pork roast, trim some of the excess fat. Don’t go crazy, though. You need some of it.
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 quarts whole plum tomatoes in juice
2 small cans tomato paste***!!!
8-10 pickled cherry peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon basil*
1 teaspoon oregano*
1 teaspoon thyme*
1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds of rigatoni

*add more later on, if you want.
***!!! See the scrapings left behind in the can? Do NOT use water to swoosh them out! I know you really want them, I did, too. Reserve some of the juice from the plum tomatoes and use THAT to swoosh it out. You’re welcome.

Slice pork roast into one inch slices, season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large dutch oven, or cooktop safe 6 qt slow cooker insert, and add as many of the pork slices as will fit without touching each other. Sear pork slices on both sides (about 3 minutes a side on medium heat).

Remove pork and leave resting on a plate. Add chopped onion and garlic to pan drippings and cook until tender, about four minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Tuck pork slices into sauce and simmer on low heat covered for 2 hours. Uncover and continue to simmer for an additional hour. If desired, meatballs can be added at this point. If using a slow cooker, cook on high for one hour, then simmer on low for 4 hours.

About 30-45 minutes prior to serving, remove pork slices from the gravy and pull apart using 2 forks, or a knife and fork and place back into the gravy. Serve pork and gravy over two pounds of cooked rigatoni and garnish with a small scoop of ricotta cheese. Use low-fat ricotta, if it makes you feel better about it!

Pasta Tip! Add some extra virgin olive oil to the water long with the salt. When the rigatoni is al dente, drain and toss with a bit more olive oil. This is especially good for spaghettis and fettucini. Nobody wants a pasta knot.

And that’s it! A little time consuming, but really simple and so darned tasty!

[ Published from Sketch, Knit, Dub... And Write!. You can comment here or there. ]
Foiled Again!

On the Process of Writing

I have learned a few things about writing this past week. Things that will serve me well, not only in the process of writing, but in other areas of life as well. They are thigs that are best learned by experience, but I’ll tell you what they are anyway so that, should you see the warning signs, you’ll say “Aha!” and take the necessary steps that helped me. Or not. It’s up to you and I won’t judge.

The first thing I learned is that it IS possible to have Too Much coffee or tea. Your stomach will tell you when you’ve had Enough coffee or tea with the standard, “Ok, we’re full here.” Then it will notify you again when there has been More Than Enough. This is the “Ok, we’re really quite full here, you may have noticed by the sluggish discomfort.” This is a good time to back off and have some water in a little while, because at Too Much, I presume the stomach might tell you about it in more violent ways that involve loud vocalizations and emissions and one end, or another. I stopped at More Than Enough. While avoiding catastrophe, I did suffer with sluggish semi-paralysis and had to stop writing for the day. Three is now my maximum and, to cut down on fat from half and half and to curb my honey usage, I’m experimenting once again with vanilla soy milk. It’s rather good in Peet’s Masala Chai.

The second thing I learned happened when I got nervous while working on my manuscript. Feeling myself begin to flounder and staring down the “What HAVE You Gotten Yourself Into?” gun, I closed my text editor and browsed FaceBook. There I noticed susanwrites mention that she was going to work on her synopsis. Susan is the reason I entered the scholarship competition in the first place. She’s an inspirational gal and, while I haven’t seen her in several weeks, she’s been a great cheerleader. She and I are both working to meet the deadline to submit our works for critique.

“A synopsis,” thinks I. “Great! Maybe I should take a break and do that. Ok, what are the basic guidelines…?” A quick search yields the answer. Three to twenty-two pages? …the average number of pages for a synopsis being five. It seemed a little overwhelming. “Ok,” thinks I. “How can we break this down? Make it more manageable? What are they looking for in the most basic format?” The synopsis, being a short hand version of the story used to sell your book to agents, editors, publishers and, eventually (one hopes) readers, can also serve as a road map when you write it part way through writing the story. It’s a bit like doing an outline, which I did before I sat down to write any of the story, but outlines feel so… rigid.

And then it hit me.

I decided to do a Who Is? list that would mention all of the important players and indicate why they were important in only the detail necessary. Eventually, it became a Who, What, When, Where? list and it’s 4 pages long. Well, 4 pages of 18pt Helvetica, so I can see it easily without picking it up from next to my keyboard.

Today, I printed it out and, with the print out next to the keyboard, I felt much more at ease. I now have direction, even if some parts are still a bit fuzzy. I now have a path to follow and I can break down the task into manageable bites by looking at the list and choosing a place in the story to work up to for that day. The goal is to break it all up in such a way that puts me at an end point with 2 days to spare so that I can go through the whole thing and tweak it a little before I send it off.

I have also learned that I need to schedule some doodling time in there. I love listening to music. I love doodling. Doodling can be done to music. I miss the music. Writing with music, or talk radio on works… not so much. Not for me anyway, and since I hope to make this a graphic novelette, there will need to be illustrations and comic pages. The music, well… Music soothes the savage Sue.

And speaking of music, my washing machine just sang to me, so remember! Easy on the coffee/tea, have a road map and goof around when needed.

[ Published from Sketch, Knit, Dub... And Write!. You can comment here or there. ]
Foiled Again!

No, no. I’m too busy to be dead.

Those of you not yet following me on Twitter or G+ who’ve sent me a message via LiveJournal, or by some other means, I assure you I’m fine! I took a bit of a break from blogging and LJ, and I tried to ease up on FB and reduce my social media involvement down to mostly Twitter, but then there’s that whole G+ thing…

Anyway, I’m fine, just busy, and nothing terribly deep to say in all that time.

I do have a few bits of news that I can share, some of it vague, because I can’t divulge all details, but some of it I can now point to and say, “Go look at this!” Like this:

Nickelodeon Dance

And this:

Let\'s Cheer!

My first bits of professional voiceover work! What I can’t tell you is what’s happened in regards to that career path since those videos went live 2 nights ago. Whoo, boy.

Before those went live however, I participated in a themed life-drawing event in San Francisco that was a part of a show at SOMArts. ( WARNING! Some of the imagery is VERY naughty! Some is just silly, like Ron Jeremy’s bronzed underwear!) My good pal Della Calfee has a couple of images in the show, 2 of which are being used prominently in the print adverts and on the web site. Anyway, they kept 2 of my drawings for display with the show and a critic in attendance took pictures of them! No idea if she tweeted them, or what yet.

But before that, I received word that the first chapter of the middle grade readers’ book I’m writing was selected as the winner for the only scholarship offered for an intimate, seaside writers’ conference out here. Admittance, room, and board are all covered, as is the fee for a manuscript critique from one of five faculty members (authors, agents, publishers) of my choosing. The top three slots are occupied by agents who represent author/illustrators, the other two slots are publishers (Big thanks to Ursula Vernon for her assistance in making that decision, and to Susan Taylor Brown for making damn sure I entered the competition!).

Have I mentioned that this all happened in the last six days?

There’s a part of me that has me looking over my shoulder, because it’s convinced that Allen Funt has risen from the grave and will jump out from behind a bush any minute now and shout, “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” It’s been an incredibly surreal week. I’m honestly not sure just how much more awesomeness I can take just now! Mind you, I’m not adverse to finding out…

In all of this… With all of this going on… I am pleased to say that the house we’re renting here has not sold out from under us and is now off the market until some unspecified date that will be determined by the end of the rainy, winter season. Sometime in March, I would guess.

It is amazing to me how The Powers That Be are always trying to prove to me just how Not Subtle my life will always be. I’m grateful that they’ve finally chosen to show me that a pile of really good stuff can happen all at once, too. Nice change of pace.

If you’re seeing this on WordPress, visual changes will soon be occurring. As for overall content, I’ll be writing more about lots of stuff and posting more drawings soon, like my forays into Corel Painter, bits about voiceover goings-on, writing, and yarn work. There will also be articles and interviews, some of them via links, but hopefully some of my own doing in the future.

Take care! I’ll post again as soon as I catch my breath!

[ Published from Sketch, Knit, Dub... And Write!. You can comment here or there. ]
Foiled Again!


I am an illustrator. Sometimes, I’m a writer. Even more so than when I’m composing an illustration. My creative life revolves around fantasy and that which is not real, but can look and feel real, if I’ve done my job well.

In the last few weeks, reality has been doing its best to hinder my preparing for a conference in 2 weeks that could make (well, at least boost) or nearly break my career. I say “nearly break” because the irrational fear that I’ll be laughed out of the place hovers just beyond my peripheral vision and the idea of that happening pokes at the place that believes I can do anything I set my mind to doing.

But the realities are these:

We will have to move. We don’t know when (60 days from X, x being at any given time.).
People will be intruding upon my work space, an extension of my mind, every Sunday.
I will very likely lose my studio downtown.
Phil is leaving for Canada on Monday. For 2 weeks.

We’ve begun the process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan as a group. That in itself is nerve-wracking, because I keep looking at what’s for sale and seeing the good properties we might be able to afford getting quickly plucked off the market. If I give up my studio, we have a little more financial wiggle room. The idea being that we make sure there’s sufficient yard space for me to make a studio out of a small shipping container or camper (I prefer the container idea.). If we are unable to buy a house, finding another suitable rental for all of us in a decent area will be a challenge.

I don’t handle excessive uncertainty, nor intrusion, very well. I need basic stability and a certain amount of privacy (we have respectful roomies.). We feel like we’ve just gotten settled, so as you might imagine, I’m a bundle of nerves right now. I’m so frazzled that I’m having even more trouble working than I was before the house went up for sale.

I am doing my best to take the days and tasks one at a time.

Hide the cookies and wish me luck.

[ Published from Sketch, Knit, Dub... And Write!. You can comment here or there. ]
Foiled Again!

Your Suggestions Needed!

I’m looking to build my portfolio for the SCBWI conference in LA next month. What I’d like is to do a few re-illustrations. That is, choose a few older, possibly classic, children’s book titles, and create new illustrations for them as examples of my work.

I’d like a few title suggestions and, if possible, cite a specific image, page, or passage from your title suggestion.

Let’s have em!

[ Published from Sketch, Knit, Dub... And Write!. You can comment here or there. ]
Foiled Again!

Interesting Developments

Relations between ourselves and the real estate agent for our rental remain interesting. After yet another unannounced visitor last week, I put my foot down in his inbox. Later, when he called, it was time to play good cop. We reached an agreement whereby any appointments made would be forwarded to my email. So far this week, nothing has come in. That being said, I will likely still make plans to not be here, as the invasion of privacy really wigs me out. We’ll see if it is less of a problem with me being gone. And THAT being said, it’s time I safeguard belongings and receipts and things. Bad enough that half of the house’s residents had their check cards scammed at, we think, the Fry’s.

The big to do this week is entertaining the notion of never renting in the Valley again. That is to say, members of the house pooling their mortgage qualifications and buying a house together.

Crazy? Probably. But it has certain advantages. There’a a peace and certainty that comes with home ownership after having a few landlords, namely the ability to just fix something and not having to wait till the landlord feels like having it done. Such as, oh, I don’t know, a pool/tub heater being out of commission for NINE MONTHS. Then there’s the ability to make changes without worrying for your deposit and, of course, not having to worry about someone selling your house out from under you.

The downsides? Well, other peoples’ quirks can be a big deal. However, in the last few months, there’s been some study of the behavior of others and trying to make sense of it. Having abandoned hope of making sense of it, there’s been revelations about it and learning not only to live with it, but work with, or around it. So far, that’s going pretty well.

A big one is the worry of tying the finances of multiple adults together. I can honestly say that those adults directly involved are very stable and trustworthy, so I’m not terribly concerned about that.

Today we went by a bank owned property for a peek. Five bedrooms, like our current digs, but a smaller place. The lot, however, is huge. Front and back yards, mature shade trees, 2 fireplaces, etc. The back yard is huge. One idea bantered around earlier this week was getting a trailer with good bones, putting it in the back yard, gutting it, and making it into a studio for me. This yard had plenty of space for a 20 footer and more. If I were to do this, I would be giving up my studio downtown. That’s $500 back into our pockets that can be put towards the mortgage. There’s also room for a garden and a hot tub easily. I would even consider adding a tree, if possible, to help shade where the studio would be. I would definitely do some in-ground or container gardening around the trailer’s concrete slab. Did I mention there’s concrete slab already there? Up until this point, I’ve not had much reason to garden. So much was already done here by the landlord’s wife and veggie gardening (which is done mainly by Phil and Lisa) is not my thing. With me having a structure out back, I’ll have the perfect excuse to plant some flowers! Eventually, I’d see about building a more permanent structure. In both cases, taking part in Silicon Open Valley Studios events will be a whole new ballgame.

In any case, it’s probably time I start reducing the amount of stuff I have. I look forward to this with both relief and dread. I’ve a couple of pieces of furniture I really like, but it’s iffy as to whether or not I’ll be able to take them with me. We shall see.

West side of the Valley, by hook or by crook, here I come.

[ Published from Sketch, Knit, Dub... And Write!. You can comment here or there. ]