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Posts Tagged ‘author’

Back to Boston

Written on Sunday, June 14th, 2009 [permanent link]


In the first week of June, 2009, I went back to Boston with my sons for my 20th college reunion. The studying I did inside and outside the classroom really sharpened my love of history (I didn’t go to college planning to major in history — REALLY! But taking a few classes really sold me on it). I made sure that the bricks of Harvard Square weren’t the only bricks we hiked across . . .

Right after our flight landed, we hiked around downtown Boston. First stop: the Battle of Bunker Hill! Except that the monument stands on Breed’s Hill, which was the taller hill and better to defend. The Redcoats didn’t take Breed’s Hill until their third charge and paid a heavy price for this high ground. Which is now surrounded by very fancy townhomes. Samuel the Teenager bravely vowed to climb the 300 steps of the monument with his backpack on; I forebade it — and bravely volunteered to guard their backs at the bottom as they both went. They made it! And I didn’t!!!

Then we hiked down Breed’s Hill to the dock where the USS Constitution is being refurbished. Samuel instantly renamed “Old Ironsides” to be “Old Tarp Covering.”I learned a lot of things on our tour of the ship (which is still commissioned in the US Navy – it could go to war if we needed it!). Its guns recoil at 30 mph when fired. That’s a lot of recoil. So even when the captain calls for a “broadside,” they would fire only half the guns at once — firing all of them would tip the ship!

The USS Constitution is docked at what was the Charlestown Navy Yard until it closed in the early 1970s. We saw the drydocks created to clean up sailing ships but used all the way into the Cold War. I loved seeing the old cranes and equipment left at the dock. AND seeing what happens to history on waterfront property: the molding drydocks sit beneath old, smallish workshops of beautifully-worn brick, and both shipyard relics rest in the shadow of a giant new brick and glass condo!!!

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An Author’s Week

Written on Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 [permanent link]

There’s no off-season for an author: In the last week of July — between taking Cub Scouts to a baseball game, shuttling my kids to work at Colonial Williamsburg and doing a Chester Comix contract extension with the Daily Press — I got three chances to re-energize with readers. Nothing brings me awake again like talking to parents and drawing with students.

My week started with a Sunday night book signing at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. I rushed there from the Richmond Braves game that I had led the Cubbies to — I was still wearing my olive green Scout leader pants behind the table full o’ comix. It may seem a weird time to go to work, but Sunday afternoons at the Visitor Center I can visit with many families coming out of the Historic Area excited about history after a full weekend in the 18th Century. A two-hour signing there usually flies by.

On Tuesday I went to Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia for an appearance at a library summer reading program. We met in a neighborhood clubhouse because the crowd was too big for the tiny 1950s library building on base. I’ve been at this long enough that now some of the kids in the audience have read my books before I get there – which must happen to other authors all the time but has been a rare situation for me in the past decade. I gave my standard one-hour chalk talk (which is still fun for me because there’s a lot of interaction with the kids as I draw on an overhead projector) and then spent an hour signing books and chatting with kids one-on-one. Thanks to the librarian, Richard Freeman, everyone at the Ft. Belvoir chalk talk got their own comic to take home.

And sometimes art is hard work!!! The photo above is from a mini-residency I did Thursday at Charles City County for a summer school program. In my longer appearances I give the students several templates to work with: some panels to make a story or a pencilled male or female figure to design their own character. Here we’re trying to get the hair just right on a female superhero.

This is the best part — seeing what bold ideas come out of the students. I volunteered for 10 years in the art classes at Matthew Whaley Elementary while my sons went there, and this creative time in Charles City felt a lot like that. I love teaching!!!! (One important point I always make: you CAN talk and draw at the same time. I encourage it. I never understood why the teachers kept saying the kids had to be quiet as they created – how do they think brainstorming works, anyway??)

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