Saturday, March 31, 2007

the legend of the subway cowboy

Ten years ago—so the legend says—
The Cowboy came.
At first, he lived above ground with us.
But soon enough he found
There are no cows allowed
Within the city limits.
Penniless and
He took up his lasso,
Which had grown dusty with disuse,
And descended into the
Where he could
Die a dismal death.

Once, when someone passed him,
They said,
“Are you planning on roping a train?” and
Pointed at the Cowboy’s lasso.
The Cowboy picked himself off
The sticky concrete and said,
The idea seemed sound to him.

He waited and
Waited and
Waited and
At last, he heard the thundering of the train
From down the dark depths
Which he had begun to think of as home.
He waited
With his muscles tense, and
His lasso ready, and
It burst forth from the tunnel like
A bullet
Fired from the barrel of a gun, and
The Cowboy hurled his lasso into the air, and
It caught on the train
Somewhere and
With a great YANK!
The Cowboy was
Pulled into the air and
Away into the night and
Before anyone knew exactly
What had happened, he was

No one ever heard from him again.
But his story lives on, and
The Subway Cowboy is famous,
Which is what he really wanted
But he was too ashamed
To admit it.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

the bitterest pill

Please check out my newest diversion, The Bitterest Pill, a podcast out of Los Angeles, which I found through a mention on Hometown Tales (would this blog be this blog without a weekly mention of HT?). Host Dan Klass is a funny man, and that can't be said of a lot of us, especially if we're women.

amy's dream

My friend, Amy, sent this email to me yesterday morning:

I had a dream that you had a new clothing line. you came up [with] a shiny fabric and were making vests with it....for guys and girls. you were really trying to get us all pumped...(it was me, my cousin Tom and my mom)...Tom and my mom thought they were soooooo cool. I really felt their judgement was clouded.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Every so often, but more often than I wish I would, I go through a period of flux, in which my Internal Creative Compass no longer points in a recognizable direction. And it's happening right now. Yay.

The symptoms of Flux are as follows:

1) a lack of interest in making things (drawings, stories, your bed, what have you), and an inability to appreciate things that you make.

2) eating a whole Pizza Hut pizza for dinner and a bag of SweeTarts for desert every night for a week.

3) a prevailing belief that your life might have been better spent pursuing a career as an E! News host, and that you would almost certainly be less annoying than Sal Masekela.

4) unfavorably comparing your new work to your old work.

5) unfavorably comparing your new work to everything else that can be seen by the naked eye.

6) making sad faces.

7) breaking stuff.

Stop laughing. Flux ain't no joke. It can make you feel like the universe is spinning off its axle, and every time you sit down at your drafting table, you're straining to pull it back into alignment, again. It's never easy to fill up a blank piece of paper, but the journey from A to B, with all it's detours and scenic roads, is the usually the most thrilling part of making art. You're always a little unsure what the results will be, but that's okay, because, at the very least, you know when you draw a line you like. If you keep drawing lines you like, how bad can the picture be? When Flux is involved, it will possess your compass, and no matter what kind of line you draw, it will inevitably tell you that line sucks. Then, it will tell you to draw another line, and tell you that one sucks, too. Flux, with its cruel, shrill, spastic voice, will convince you to ride a rickety rollercoaster and laugh hysterically when your car flies off the track into a rabbit warren, setting it ablaze.

Yet, despite its sadistic and unpleasant nature, Flux is a necessary part of the creative process, because you'll keep beating your head against the wall looking for a cure, until you get so used to the frustration you transcend it. It's like saying the word "milk" over and over. Eventually, it loses all meaning, and you wonder why it was ever called that in the first place. Art is like that, too. There's no right way to do anything, just a set of rules you construct in order for you to classify your work and categorize yourself, for yourself. And every once in a while, you've got to clear the decks and rebuild from the ground up.

Hold on.

What's that, Internal Creative Compass?

Okay, what the hell is a Southleft?

the blockbuster psychic

A few weeks ago, I went into a Blockbuster to rent some videos, and left with Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Home on the Range, and a belief in the sixth sense.

Here's what happened: I was in the middle of checking out, when the cashier, a guy in his mid-twenties, said, "Can I ask you a weird question?" (in itself a weird question). I replied "okay," and braced myself for something along the lines of "Do you like to eat keys?".

But what he said was, "Did you have anything to do with 9/11? I mean, were you there?".

I was stunned. I was there. I worked in Manhattan, a mile from the World Trade Center, in 2001, the only year I have ever lived in New York City. I told him as much.

"Yeah," he said, "I got an image of you sitting on a curb, or something." I had sat on a curb that day. Several, in fact.

The cashier's co-worker stood there frozen and slack-jawed. "Dude," he muttered. "Dude, that's crazy."

"Are you serious?" the cashier asked me.

"Are you?" I said.

When he didn't budge, I told the cashier, with a completely straight face, that he had super powers. Then I left the store, unsure of how to continue the conversation.

And I still don't know what to make of it. No one who's heard the story has offered an alternative to paranormality except my friend Steve, who proposed that, although my rental card listed my previous address in Madison, Wisconsin, my entire history as a Blockbuster customer might have popped up on the cashier's screen. Did this supposed psychic see that I registered for my first card in Brooklyn in 2001? Or did he read my mind?


Monday, March 26, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

slow news day

I ripped this out of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal several months ago, intending to start a scrapbook of boring headlines, but none have topped this, yet:

I mean, come on.

Friday, March 23, 2007

why i smell

According to the website the best stuff in the world, which lets visitors cast their vote for...the best stuff in the world, the smell of second-hand books is the eighteenth most popular odor (out of a listed sixty-three), barely edging out mint, and falling just below bonfires. Discounting the fact that a) the results are based on an internet poll, and b) the number two most popular smell is "boobs," this is very encouraging news to me, an admitted book sniffer.

Now, before you picture me holed up in a library bathroom with my nose pressed in the spine of Moby Dick (not the whale, itself), recognize that there are many different levels of obsession in all things, including book-sniffing. Take J.D. Roth (sadly, not the host of Fun House), who described his compulsion on his personal blog,, thusly:

The first thing I do when I get a book, or when I pick one up in a store, or at a friend's house, is to sniff it...I have an unwritten, unordered classification for types of smells. If I wanted to, I could write down an entire taxonomy of book smells. There are general categories, of course — musty, smoky, newsprinty, new-y, etc. — but there are also minute gradations — like a late-seventies Harvey comic, like a Del Rey sci-fi paperback, like a grade school library book, like a European food magazine.

Over at the Tribe Booklover’s forum, Mark posted the question, “Do you smell books?”, to which Susie responded:

OK, I'll admit it. I smell books. It all started in junior high. We would order books for english class and when I'd get mine I'd open them and smell them. There's just nothin like the smell of a fresh new paperback straight out of the box.

You said it, Susie. Here’s Ms. Smart, same forum, clearly disgusted:


And then, there's Steve:

My copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell smells like tar.

Neither a confirmation nor a denial, Steve's response is chilling in its ambiguity.

I'm not quite Susie, but I'm no Ms. Smart, either; I have purposely engaged in the act. I don’t do this often, but it happens sometimes when I’m flipping through old picture books. I have no reason for doing this other than my apparent attraction to the weird tang of mildew. It reminds me of being in my elementary school library, where I read, for the first time, books that I still love. I hope that my books smell like that, someday.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

a very special blog post

In a competition that separated the men from the boys, and the people who can email from those who either can't, were freaked out by sending a complete stranger their address, thought the prize was crappy, or were completely apathetic over the whole shebang, Colleen of San Diego, California, using her formidable typing skills, has become the winner of The Great Shrinky-Dink Giveaway! To celebrate this momentous occasion, I sat at my computer and typed what you're reading while eating a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Huzzah!

Congratulations, Colleen! Thank you for bringing an end to this clearly premature attempt at a contest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

a confession

I was driving down County Highway JJ at midnight. The radio was on and playing a heartbreaking tune by Vince Gill that I just had to sing along with because I love Vince Gill. The song is about a man and woman who fall in love, have fights, and fall in love again.

Then, I came upon a lonely tree on the side of the road doing 85, and that’s when this alien came running out. I mean, what a stupid alien! Why did he wait until then to cross the road? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Anyway, I smashed into him, because I didn’t have time to swerve out of the way, and he just blew up.

Well, that was scary!

I stopped the car with a screeching halt right after, and checked out the damage to the bumper and hood. It wasn’t too bad. The chrome was chipped, but a little half-test seal mount would cure that.

Right then, I didn’t know it was a alien. But then I saw this alien head wiggling around like a giant avocado, and I realized that it was a alien. I fell on my knees, and prayed to God that I hadn’t killed the only alien I ever saw. Unfortunately, I did.

Sometimes, I lie awake late at night and think about that alien. Did I do the right thing by killing that alien? I just don’t know.

If you killed a alien, what would you do?


Sunday, March 18, 2007



A few news items and updates:

First of all, The Great Shrinky-Dink Giveaway is still in progress! Send an email with the subject line "dink", and your name and mailing address to, and you could be the owner of an original piece of shriveled, plastic art!

Secondly, check out Hometown Tales podcast #145 to hear the spooky story of the "Twin Beds", read by Bryan Minogue.

Last but not least, I received my plaque from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for Hippo! No, Rhino, a 2006 Golden Kite Award Honor Book, in addition to some neat stickers which I slapped on all of my copies. Here's what they look like:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

i'm rich

Recently, I've been reading a lot about the harsh realities of being a published children's author; the low pay, the long nights, and the empty stomachs. And frankly, I don't know what these people are talking about. I'm rich.

Some of these complainers would have you believe that they've never burned a million dollar bill in a crystal urn just to know what it smells like, or fed their dog bald eagle wings. I'm not like that. I'll tell you the truth, because I believe what they don't: you can fly to Jakarta to party with Diddy on Saturday and be back in time to read at a children's hospital on Monday. Being a good person and role model to today's youth and owning a gold hovercraft are not mutually exclusive.

A life of luxury is nothing to be ashamed of, so, dear colleagues, I urge you to lift the veil. Keep making books that inspire, but don't pretend you clip your own toenails when your robot servants do it for you. It's insulting.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the great shrinky-dink giveaway

In an effort to promote readership (and viewership) of this blog, I've decided to periodically sponsor a contest in which one lucky patron will receive an original piece of Shrinky-Dink art, created by yours truly.

To claim this first stunning example of hand-crafted finery, you must:

A) Not know me (in the biblical sense, or through familial/friend relationships).

B) Be the first to send an email with the subject line "dink", and your name and mailing address to

C) That's it.

The winner will receive his or her prize within 10-14 days from the date of contest end (which will be celebrated with a very special blog post). Winners outside of the United States can expect to wait...longer.

Newmanpicturesblog is in no way affiliated with Shrinky-Dinks or K & B Innovations, Inc., and does not accept responsibility for injuries related to Shrinky-Dink mishandling.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Friday, March 9, 2007

how to fight an alligator

Last week, my mother sent my brother and I the following email. The subject line was “Seriously guys”:

“If an alligator ever grabs you, do you know what to do to get him to let go before he eats you?? TAKE YOUR THUMB AND POKE HIM RIGHT IN THE EYE. It was on the news the other day!! XXOOO”

I wrote back: “Where was this email yesterday, when I really needed it?”

Minutes later, my brother responded:

“Seriously, i'm emailing you from the alligator injury ward at st. mary's hospital in hoboken...”

In her reply to our replies, my mother tried to achieve some relevance:




I was not aware of this, nor did I believe it. So, when I stepped outside that afternoon to get some coffee, I was completely unprepared to see an alligator gnawing on the head of an elderly man right there on the sidewalk.

“T-take your thumb, and poke him in the eye!” I shouted, pantomiming the action.

The old man silently reached a hand out to me. Three of his fingers were missing.

“Jesus," I said, and went back inside.

* * *

Last week, you could walk outside your door and take a walk without being eaten. You could eat a sandwich without being eaten. You could even eat alligator without being eaten by an alligator. Last week, the irrational fear of being eaten by an alligator was still irrational.

Today, I got a call from the recently erected Alligator Injury Ward at St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken.
“It’s more of a MASH unit in an abandoned parking lot next to the hospital than an actual ward,” my brother was saying. “It’s not abandoned anymore, but you know what I mean.”
“Mmm-hmm,” I grunted, crunching a carrot stick. Outside my windows, the streets were rolling green. “So...everything’s okay there, then. I mean, you’re okay, right?”
“I’m fine. Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s healing. I think it’s going to...”
On the other end of the line, a siren flared, drowing out the rest of my brother’s response.
“I’m glad you’re doing better,” I said.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


twin beds

It's no secret that I love Hometown Tales, having mentioned the podcast several times in a blog that's ostensibly about illustrating for children. They're just that good. Today, I wrote in with another story, but in case it doesn't get on the air, I'm including it here. Credit should go to Mr. A.J. Belmont, who either experienced something exceptionally freaky, or told me the most convincing campfire story I've ever heard.

About 10 years ago, when a friend of mine was living in an apartment building in Boston, one of his next-door neighbor’s was an elderly man. They ignored each other, for the most part, except to occasionally say hello.

At one point during his occupancy, my friend noticed a faint but terrible odor in the hallway. Over the next few days, the smell worsened. Some of the residents complained to the landlord. One evening, my friend came home from work to find the paramedics and police outside his apartment building. When he asked what had happened he was told that the elderly man had been found dead in bed. What’s more, he had been dead for at least two weeks.

After my friend was allowed to enter the premises again (presumably after the body had been taken away and the building fumigated), he had the opportunity to look inside the dead man’s apartment. Most of his furniture and possessions had yet to be removed, including the man’s bed, the headboard of which was pushed up against the wall. When my friend returned to his apartment he realized that the headboard of his bed was pushed up against the opposite side of the same wall. He had been sleeping head to head with a dead man for two weeks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

killing time

Living in the serial killer capital of the United States (unverified) can really make you blue, sometimes. Not that I blame flesh eating psychopaths for my mood, lately. But there is something desolate about Milwaukee. When I first visited here, about 5 years ago, I said "it looks like the city was attacked by zombies." Then, in the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, it was, confirming that if it wasn't already ruled by the zombies, its seeming lack of human population would make it a prime candidate for takeover.

It hasn't happened, yet, which is a shame, really. I could use a distraction about now, and plowing through an army of the undead with a Humvee sounds like a decent way to kill a few hours.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Monday, March 5, 2007

the waiting game

I used to think of myself as a patient person, but it's impossible to pretend that I am, anymore. Instant (or at least, consistent) gratification seems scarily vital to me, now, and I'm not sure I like it (on the other hand, I don't know how to fight it). I think part of the reason why I started this blog is because it satisfies that ever-growing part of me that needs to see results yesterday.

Right now is a particularly frustrating time for me, as I wait for my editor's comments on my developing picture book that I alluded to way back when. There's nothing to do but wait until he's finished, and even when the waiting's done, there may be more revisions, which will be sent back to my editor to await, possibly, more comments. Additionally, the book is being brought to another imprint. That means that a new art director (hopefully, someone who doesn't think the book is junk) has to be appointed. At present, I'm approximating a release date sometime in early 2032.

I'm down about it, but I shouldn't be, especially with all the great things happening lately. In some way, though, it's those very things that are making me anxious to get moving. I've written a book that folks have actually read (and some of them even liked it). I've got a good head a steam built up, but what good is that when you've got nowhere to go?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Friday, March 2, 2007

golden kite

Okay, now I'm really freaked out: I just got a call from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators informing me that Hippo! No, Rhino is a Golden Kite Award Honor Book. The Golden Kite is awarded to only eight books (including both an award and honor recipient in each of the four categories) out of over one thousand submissions each year. Moreover, the winners are chosen by fellow authors and illustrators! I'm too bewildered to comment, at the moment, but I would like to thank the two rhinoceroses and all of the confused patrons at Henry Vilas Zoo who made this book possible. This one's for you!

Thursday, March 1, 2007