Tag Archives: beautiful people doing beautiful things

in which THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS is released into the world

Late in the summer of 2013, I had just finished up taking part in a great contest called The Writer’s Voice. I had also just signed with my agent, was ready to dive into submission of the first novel, about to start my MFA, and testing the waters in the YA community, a community in which I felt like everyone knew each other but me.

Alongside me in this contest was another writer called Anna-Marie McLemore. I knew nothing about her, except the first hundred words of her novel and the pitch. Which I think I read a dozen times. “Wow, I wish this was a book I could read right now,” I remember thinking. “Wow, that Anna-Marie McLemore seems so cool and awesome and talented. I’ll be she is the bomb diggity.” I then proceeded to shyly internet stalk her. Like the big creep that I am. 

So imagine my surprise when a few months later, I got a direct message on Twitter from here which read, nearly in its entirety, “Wanna CP/beta?” (for those of you who are not writers, she was asking me if I wanted to be critique partners, meaning people who send their manuscripts to each other and trade feedback).

That’s right–this writer whose work I had had a big old crush on for MONTHS was asking ME if I wanted to be HER critique partner?

I think I fainted.

I wrote her back an email that was crafted with all the attention and care and redrafting of asking someone out on a date. I did my best to make myself appear far more interesting and intelligent than I actually am. This was the equivalent of the taped-glasses math club nerd getting asked to the prom by the dreamy captain of the football team.

I was not going to screw this up. I wanted this girl to like me.

So I sent my new friend a draft of the book that would become This Monstrous Thing. She read it. She had great and helpful things to say about it. Turns out she was also smart, funny, articulate, and kind.

“Damn,” I thought, “This girl is even cooler than initially anticipated.”

We kept reading each other’s writing. We traded more personal emails with that writing. We started talking about things other than books, and we eased slowly into friendship. We went from being CPs to pen pals to proper friends in opposite time zones. Over the past two years I’ve known her, Anna-Marie has been an incredible source of strength and inspiration for me–both as a writer and a human being. And one time she drove me around western Mass and I was pretty sure we were going to die. Also her and her cute husband are the kind of pair that make you believe in true love. That has nothing to do with anything. I just wanted to mention it. 

I remember exactly where I was when I heard This Monstrous Thing sold–it was such a special moment, I’ll never forget it. I also remember exactly where I was when I read that Anna-Marie’s first novel, The Weight of Feathers, had sold to St. Martin’s. It was also a pretty freaking special moment. Probably moreso for her than me. But I pretended I was a part of it. 

Today, that exquisite book by this exquisite human being, is released into the wild.  

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The Weight of Feathers is an astonishing book. Of course I am biased because I know and love the author, but also I am a person with fantastic taste and I would think this book is gold whether or not I knew her. It is magical and evocative and lush and delicious and gorgeous. It is about inherited hatred and impossible love, about performing mermaids and tree climbers, about family and abuse and learning how to love others and yourself. It is about magic and culture and the way our families make us who we are, and how we break free of that and make ourselves. And the prose is so beautiful and sweet it will give you a cavity.    

So here are some recommendations for you:

  1. Get yourself a friend like Anna-Marie McLemore.
  2. Get yourself a copy of The Weight of Feathers.

Here are some helpful links to make it even easier for you to obtain this book:

Indiebound

Amazon

Porter Square Books 

GET YOURSELF THIS BOOK. I promise you will love it. And if you don’t, we can’t be friends anymore. Simple as that.

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in which the winners of This Monstrous Coloring Contest are announced

Gather round my friends cause we’re gonna announce the winners of This Monstrous Coloring Contest!

First and foremost, thank you so much to everyone who entered! I am thrilled, amazed, flattered, etc. that so many of you broke out your coloring supplies for me, Victor, and the foclicking Creature. The decision was brutal–there truly was not an unexceptional entry in the bunch. My panel of judges and I were considering making up special awards for each of you. You can view all the astounding entries on the dedicated Pinterest board here!

My panel of guest judges (which included an actual artist, an actual engineer, and an actual judge for the Utah State Fair, so she has previous experience) and I had a beast of a time choosing. In true Romantic fashion, we tore our hair with anguish. We collapsed onto our fainting couches from the strain. The smelling salts had to be fetched. But we, unanimously, decided upon a winner.

And now, without further ado. The winners.

But know you are all winners in my heart.

Our two runners up, who will be receiving This Monstrous Thing swag and a copy of the Color Your Own Graphic Novel Frankenstein, are….

enby

Enby Enjorals, in an entry we nicknamed “Psychedelic Seussian Frankenstein” 

Gwen Katz

Gwen Katz, in an entry we nicknamed “Frankenbowie” 

And the grand prize winner, who will be receiving an ARC of This Monstrous Thing (signed), a copy of Frankenstein (not signed), a copy of the Color Your Own Graphic Novel Frankenstein, and extensive swag is….

Ellie

Ellie M, in an entry we nicknamed “No, I must dance!”-enstein.  

Thank you to everyone who entered! I really can’t say that enough. If you entered, I would love to send you postcards and bookmarks as a sign of my eternal appreciation. If this is a thing that interests you, please email me your mailing address at themackenzilee[at]gmail

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in which I smell like an adult woman

When I was in high school, I had an iconic woman in my life who worked with our high school drama department. I thought she was basically greatest person on earth1. She frightened me a little the first time I met her, as all people worth knowing do, and she was smart, practical, a little sassy, and always looked like a million bucks. Seriously, immaculate. And, as a result of her doing a lot of costume work for us that put me in close proximity to her as she pinned up dresses and tunics and once a weird giraffe costume, I knew for a fact that she also smelled great. Like seriously the best smelling person I’d ever met. I finally asked her what her secret was. How do you go through life with such an amazing aroma wafting off you?

Perfume, she told me. My idol wore perfume. This blew my mind in a way it should not have, and I thought to myself, Successful iconic women must wear perfume. In that moment, the two became inexplicably intertwined.

I should preface this by explaining that I was raised by a low-maintenance woman whose idea of getting dressed up was putting on mascara and matching socks, so normal woman things like wearing makeup and nail polish and pulling hairs out of your eyebrows never occurred to me as things people did. Perfume was not a word in my vocabulary until this day I realized maybe people did not naturally smell amazing, but actually had some help2.

“It’s Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue,” my idol told me, and I nodded like I knew perfume came in more than one kind before just that moment.

So the next time my mom took me to the department store to buy jeans3 I snuck over to the cosmetics section. It was a frightening place—all those makeup counters and giant faces printed on display stands and strange beauty devices that looked like medieval torture implements and women in black with very intense painted-on eyes. But I forged through this strange land, located that little blue box4 of Dolce and Gabbana perfume with every intention to buy it and smell as beautiful as my idol.

Except I didn’t realize until that moment that perfume was expensive. That one bottle was more money than I was spending on anything as a teenager. More money than I spent on my prom dress. Probably more money than I’d spent all year combined. I gingerly put the bottle back and resigned myself to giving up that dream of smelling like a beautiful, successful adult woman.

But then I put a squirt from the tester bottle on my wrist and sniffed. It smelled so good, and I just wanted it, in a way I had never wanted anything that wasn’t books or theater tickets. The smell that to me was growing up and being something, someone worth looking up to. Being someone I could admire and be proud of.

So right then and there, I made a vow. I would come back for this perfume when I had done something worth smelling that good.

I don’t remember how many times since then I have snuck into department stores to spritz myself with testers and then run away before anyone figured out I wasn’t going to buy it, or how many knock off bottles of this perfume I purchased at sketchy European markets, or when the vow I made morphed into “I will buy this perfume with the money from my first book advance.” But somewhere along the way, I promised myself that with the money from my first book sale, whenever that came or however much it was, I would buy myself a bottle of this grown up, successful woman perfume.

Friday night, Marx and I went to Macy’s.

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There it is! The little blue box, and inside that box is a little blue bottle! And in spite of the fact that I look like I am going to eat it, I did not5! It is mine and I am wearing it now and even though it still seems like an exorbitant amount to pay for a bottle of perfume the size of my fist, it feels like a weird milestone. In book life, and adult life, and smelling-good life6. One step closer to being like the people I admire.

  1. She’s still pretty high on my list.
  2. I’m guessing this is about the point in the story where you are starting to wonder to yourself, “Where’s this going, Kenz?” Hang in there.
  3. I cannot emphasize how low maintenance we are.
  4. Most magical things come in blue boxes.
  5. Though if it tastes as good as it smells, I would.
  6. Yes, I am wearing it right now and yes, I do keep smelling myself. And I smell GREAT.
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in which the Looking Glass is released

Today is an exciting day.

Today, The Looking Glass by the very lovely Jessica Arnold comes out!

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Isn’t it pretty?

Jessica is a good friend of mine, and one of my few writer friends/critique partners that I know in real life and not just on the internet. Jessica is great and her book is great and I want to wish her the happiest of book birthdays! Your debut day only comes once!

Summary from Goodreads: 

Find the diary, break the curse, step through The Looking Glass!

Fifteen-year-old Alice Montgomery wakes up in the lobby of the B&B where she has been vacationing with her family to a startling discovery: no one can see or hear her. The cheap desk lights have been replaced with gas lamps and the linoleum floor with hardwood and rich Oriental carpeting. Someone has replaced the artwork with eerie paintings of Elizabeth Blackwell, the insane actress and rumored witch who killed herself at the hotel in the 1880s. Alice watches from behind the looking glass where she is haunted by Elizabeth Blackwell. Trapped in the 19th-century version of the hotel, Alice must figure out a way to break Elizabeth’s curse—with the help of Elizabeth’s old diary and Tony, the son of a ghost hunter who is investigating the haunted B&B—before she becomes the inn’s next victim.

Buy The Looking Glass on Amazon!

Add it on Goodreads!  

And be sure to stop by Jessie’s website and wish her a happy debut day!

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in which I meet my heroes

When I was a kid, I really loved books, and I really hated math.

Neither of those things have changed.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is my deep and abiding adoration of a picture book called Math Curse. It is a brilliant book that I loved as a kid and love more as an adult.1

So a couple weeks ago, when Milton asked me if I wanted to have coffee with her and the author of Math Curse, I said, “Is a Fibonacci Sequence created by adding the two previous numbers?”

The answer was yes. Yes I would like to have coffee with Jon Scieszka2.

On Saturday, Milton and I waited in the Sheraton Starbucks. We were both a little nervous. I had no idea what sort of person Mr. Scieszka would be. Did he, icon of children’s literature, really have the time to meet with us? The phrase “Never meet your heroes” kept running through my head.

But then Jon arrived. He sat down with us, and we talked for about an hour about children’s books, literacy, gender, and writing. This guy  basically changed the face of picture books and here he was, sitting in a Starbucks with two grad students, telling us stories about Mo Willems and Jon Klassen and treating our opinions and ideas as though they were just as valid and intelligent as his.

Milton and I were both impressively articulate and kept our cool, but I think both of our internal monologues looked something like this:

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It was an amazing conversation with an amazing guy, and one of those “aha!” moments that affirmed yet again I am in the right field. I don’t think I’m ever going to change children’s literature the way Jon Scieszka did, but someday I hope I can return this favor and sit down with an aspiring author in a hotel Starbucks and tell them everything they need to hear.

And then I will sign their book with a math equation. The same way Jon did for me.

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  1. Also I’m pretty sure there were a few questions on the SAT that I got right specifically because of Math Curse.
  2. Mr. Scieszka is also the author of The Stinky Cheeseman and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, among other dark and hilarious books. His new book, Battle Bunny, is sort of brilliant. He’s one of the rare children’s authors who writes books kids actually want to read.
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in which I have a perfect weekend

Oh look, I have a blog!

I forgot I have a blog. As you might have noticed. Because it’s been a while since I posted.

The weeks since the return to Boston have been good but busy, hence the lack of blogging. I started school, started a new job, started working on my thesis1 with my advisor, celebrated a birthday, went to an epic twenties murder mystery party for said birthday.

And then this past weekend, I went to New York.

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The New York trip has been in the works for a while. It was originally meant to include a bunch of Simmons friends, but one by one they dropped out, like we were touring Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. In the end, it was just me and a friend of mine who I don’t think has appeared on the blog before, so let’s call her Milton.

Milton and I went to New York this weekend with an agenda that included various children’s lit shenanigans. So I knew it was going to be great.  I did not realize it was going to be the Most Perfect Weekend Ever.

Here are the three reasons my weekend in New York was the Most Perfect Weekend Ever:

1. The Children’s Literature

The primary reason behind this trip was going to the New York Public Library exhibit on children’s literature. Which was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Not only were the artifacts on display super gorgeous2, Milton and I kept geeking out about beautiful the exhibit itself was. You could tell it was created with a lot of love and care by people who really love children’s books. There was a tower of banned books, a recreation of the room from Goodnight Moon, and even a giant wild thing!

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We also got to attend the Brooklyn Book Festival, which is the largest literary festival in New York and one of the largest in the US. It was amazing. We got to hear amazing authors talk, including David Levithan, Meg Cabot, Lauren Myracle, Katherine Applegate, and Jasper Fforde. Of course, I got to bulk up my signed books collection and just sort of bask in the awesomeness of so many awesome and creative people in the same place.

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2. The Theater

I saw two shows this weekend. First was Once, which has been playing for a while but I hadn’t seen until this weekend. I…liked it with reservations. It had some issues, but overall was still a beautiful and moving theatrical experience. I had very good seats that were purchased for much cheaper because they were last minute, and, as I do almost every time I’m at a show of that caliber, I just felt lucky to be there.

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Then Milton and I saw Matilda, which I have been waiting to see for years, ever since it opened at the RSC just after I left England. I am an avid fan of the novel on which it is based, and just a great lover of Roald Dahl in general. This musical was made for me. Tickets right now are bleeding expensive and hard to come by, so this took a bit of planning ahead of time to see3. And in spite of that, we were still in the nethermost regions of the topmost balcony. It sort of felt like watching the show from a low-flying airplane. But none of the mattered because OMG MATILDA!

I have seen a lot of theater over the course of my life. Matilda is easily in my top five4. Maybe top three. Just absolutely the most beautiful theatrical experience ever. I was definitely predisposed to like this show as it is a fusion of the two things I love most in the world, theater and children’s literature5. But seriously, it was just sensational. Blew my mind. Loved every minute.

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3. The Perfect Timing

Something about this weekend just made everything go right. Little things, like me coming out of the subway right at the same time as Ariel, with whom I was again lodging, so I didn’t have to wander around Brooklyn in the dark. Having the exact right amount of money on my metrocard. The fact that twice Milton and I had very specific cravings and they both manifested within minutes6. Weird things like that just went right. It’s amazing for a trip to go off without a hitch, and this one actually went off better than that. It didn’t just go as anticipated, it went better.

It was also perfectly timed because the last month has been sort of rough. Starting the new job has been hard and exhausting, working on my thesis has been hard and exhausting, working on the other project with my agent has been emotionally draining, and just moving in general and readjusting to Boston has left me beat. I really needed a win this weekend. I really needed a perfect weekend.

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  1. Which one minute is giving me writer’s high and the next makes me want to Sherlock-style throw myself off a building.
  2. Secret Garden manuscript pages! PL Travers’s umbrella! Original illustrations from Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland!
  3. And a small nest egg.
  4. Hamlet at the National Theater, Pippin at ART, Eastland at LookingGlass, and Romeo and Juliet at the RSC. If you were interested.
  5. And it even falls in that weirdly specific category of children’s lit and theater I like, which is dark whimsy.
  6. Number One: “I want frozen yogurt…oh look, there’s a woman handing out coupons for Orange Leaf.” Number two: “I want Panera French onion soup…oh look, there’s a Panera on the next block.”
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in which I bid farewell to the Friend

Before we begin, don’t forget to read the Four Book Friday Wrap Up and enter my very first GIVEAWAY where you could win one of the Four Book Friday books and a $10 gift card! Click here to enter. 

As of last Tuesday, I am back in BOSTON!

It’s taken me a while to get this news on the blog because I have been occupied by the actual act of moving to Boston and getting things in order here. But I’m officially back on the east coast and excited to be here.

But before we talk about the return to Boston, we have to talk about what happened before the move back to Boston.

So you may remember about five months ago, I posted my “big news” about getting an internship with The Friend Mormon children’s magazine. And if you’ve been hanging around the blog at all this summer, I’ve told a few stories about working there. A few, but not too many. When I was first offered the internship, I was pretty excited, mainly because it meant I could save money while living at home and not have to cook for myself all summer, and I wouldn’t have to battle the humidity in Boston. That’s it. Sure, it would be cool working on a magazine, but I’m not a super churchy person, so I wasn’t excited about that. Honestly, I didn’t think working for the Friend would be particularly different than my other internships I had—a few months of some interesting work that doesn’t leave much of an impression. I especially didn’t think it would be life changing.

Surprise—it was.

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Part 1 of the amazing parting gift the staff made me–a fake copy of the magazine with my picture on the cover!

Working for the Friend ended up being the most all-around amazing thing I’ve ever done. I got to do real work—not just usual intern work that could be screwed up with minimal consequences. Every day I got to throw myself into projects that directly contributed to the on-time publication of a magazine with over one million readers worldwide1. And I got to work on them with the most talented group of people I have ever worked with. I was in daily awe of these people, and equally amazed by their intelligence and their dedication to quality children’s literature.

I did not have a bad day at the Friend. I hardly had a bad moment. I had four months of hard work and happiness that I would never have guessed were coming my way on that rainy night five months ago when I got a phone call from Salt Lake City.

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Part 2 of amazing parting gift–the back cover!

I’ve been staring at this open Word document for like ten minutes because it really is just impossible to put into words my experience at the Friend. All you have to know is that when it was all finished, I went home and just cried for a while. I’m crying a little bit now as I write this because a part of my heart is still back in the corner cubicle on the 24th floor. The Friend gave me so many things, some of which are too personal to write about here, but mostly confidence in myself and my work, validation that I am in the correct field, and an arsenal of people on my side to which I wish I could offer some eloquent gratitude, but the only thing I can think to say is “I’ll eat you up I love you so.” And I think they’ll recognize what that means coming from me.

Thank you to the Friend and its marvelous staff for an outstanding summer, for letting me work on things I was passionate about and allowing me to bask in your brilliance. Here’s hoping some of it rubbed off on me.

 

  1. I also got to spend a fair amount of time on Pinterest and read a lot of picture books. Seriously, dream job.
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in which I reflect upon the little Shakespeare company that could

Like most of my stories, this one begins with a children’s lit reference:

This is the story of the little theater company that could.

Four years ago, the summer before I went to Europe, I was bored. Like bored out of my mind. Hated my job, all my friends were on missions or in school or just living elsewhere for various reasons and I was chomping at the bit to get out of Utah and into the big wide world.

So I naturally did what every bored nineteen year old does: I started a Shakespeare company.

I did not know what I was doing. I cannot emphasize that enough. I had directed like a play and a half before. I am not a scholar of Shakespeare or acting. I just love them both dearly. But the previous year, I’d done some work with Logan Youth Shakespeare Co, an amazing theater company in Logan, Utah, that puts on full-length Shakespeare with actors ages 8 to 181. I was so inspired working with them and seeing what the director had made out of nothing that I wanted to do more of that.

So, armed with nothing but my usual ridiculous passion for absurd things and a desire to do something way beyond my skill level, I started to put together a show.

When I went to post the audition notice on a local theater website, one of the mandatory boxes you had to fill in was “Company Name.” I had no company. This was literally me and my backyard and a public domain script copied off the internet. Then I had this train of thought:

“We’re doing Shakespeare…my favorite Shakespeare quote is “We are such stuff as dreams are made on”…we’re doing the Tempest…and that quote is from the Tempest…” And then I typed “Such Stuff Productions” in the box and posted the audition notice.

Three months later, the strangest and most awesome group of people ever, most of them under 182, put on a production of “The Tempest” in an outdoor amphitheater, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

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The next summer, upon my return from England, I found myself again bored and again wanting to do something that required great passion and mild insanity. So again, I posted an audition notice, this time for “Coriolanus,” one of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays, and signed it Such Stuff Productions. That year, our cast was all under 213 and I have honestly never worked with a better group of people in my life.

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It is a remarkable thing to look across a stage and see twenty-something young people looking back at you with total trust and total dedication and know that they would probably walk with you to the ends of the earth if you asked them to. They were also, as a group, incredibly giving. Giving of their time, their talents, their message to the audience that came to see them.

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And my, but the audience came. Our same little amphitheater was packed for four scorching nights in August. The show turned into one of the most perfect experiences of my life, the untouchable sort that you whisper when you talk about and cry for no reason when you think about.

And then the next summer…I moved to Chicago. And though Such Stuff Productions was finished.

But then two lovely young friends of mine picked up where I left off. That summer, they staged As You Like It, with the same spirit that had hoisted Tempest and Corio: young people who are passionate and enthusiastic and just want to give. I wasn’t able to see it, as I was in Chicago, but this summer I was able to see their production of Merry Wives of Windsor. And the whole time I watched it, I just felt so freaking proud.

I am so proud of every single member of that company for continuing the tradition of Such Stuff Productions, which is making something out of nothing and then giving it away again. It is about inspiring people to be artistic and creative, about learning to work together as students, artists, and friends, and share the things we love with others. I am so grateful to the people who believed in my original dream for this company and have worked so hard to not just keep it alive, but grow it and make it better.

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To the company of Merry Wives of Windsor—what a treat it was to see you all on Thursday night! Thank you for continuing to share your passion and the passion of this company with others. I respect you so much, and I am so grateful you have kept this company alive. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and never stop doing what you love!

You can like Such Stuff Productions on Facebook, and you probably should, since they are awesome. If you didn’t get that already. 

  1. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my career path feeding into children’s lit was a direct result of my work with LYS.
  2. And one over 70. And one who had never been on stage before. And several who didn’t know who Shakespeare was.
  3. With one glaring exception—our villain was played by a 30-something carpenter who had never acted, only read Shakespeare in middle school, and was totally outstanding on stage.
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in which I visit the bard

Hello! I am back! You probably didn’t even notice I was gone because I am a master of the scheduled blog post.

Where was I, you may ask? Oh, just my favorite place in the entire world. Cedar City, Utah, home of the Utah Shakespearean Festival and pure awesome.

The story of my family and the Utah Shakespearean Festival began in 2002, when we packed up in our Subaru for the first time and made the trek. I was 11 and the MT was 8. Younger than most people start being serious theater goers, but my parents have always taken the approach of exposing us to great things earlier than most. I saw my first Shakespeare play that summer, As You Like It, in the closest existing replica to Shakespeare’s Globe outside of London. And it was magic. I fell in love with Shakespeare there on that warm July evening and, in many ways, the theater too.

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Since then, Cedar Ciy has been my home away from home, the only sure fixture of every summer where we can really get away from it all. It is our best week as a family, a week of glorious theater and lively intellectual discussion surrounding the Bard and his better and lesser known works. It was also the sight of the best days of my high school years, when my theater department competed in the national high school Shakespeare competition1 annual held there.

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a rare family photo in front of the super large banners that hang on the outside of the theater.

I love the USF. I really can’t emphasize this enough. I love the plays they do. I love the seminars they do. I love the infuriatingly pretentious discussions about the plays and the seminars that is had daily at the pine grove. I love sitting on the wet grass and watching the pre-show while reading our souvenir program and talking about the actors’ previous roles like some people would discuss stats on a baseball card2. I love watching the sky and worrying about rain driving the outdoor shows inside, which it never does3. I love the giant banners with photos from the shows, I love the canyon wind that whips the stage, I love the gold leafing in the Randall theater balcony. I love the giant tree in the Adams courtyard and the woodcarver that words underneath it. I love the statue of Shakespeare in the lobby. I love the field where we used to rehearse before the Shakespeare competition (see first picture in this post). I love trying on masks with the MT in the gift shoppe. I love that they spell it gift shoppe. I love the uncomfortable seats in the Adams Theater balcony, the overpriced cream cheese tarts we always buy at intermission. I love being too shy to talk to the actors we spot around the festival grounds and feeling like we’ve just had a celebrity siting.

Most of all, I love the way this small community in southern Utah all comes together every year to make some damn fine Shakespeare.

This is the second summer in a row that I didn’t think attending the Shakespeare Festival was going to happen for me, but it did, and I feel so lucky to have gone again4. I love, love, love the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and the gift they gave little 11 year old me of beautiful, exciting theater that has been inspiring me ever since, and continues to inspire me every day.

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  1. Performing at the USF with my high school team is what I still think of as my Patronus Moment, or if dementors ever attacked me and I had to conjure a Patronus, running down to collect our first prize trophy is the happy moment I would think of.
  2. The MT and I are a bit possessive of the people who work at the festival. We have our favorites, our least favorites, our outrages and excitement over casting. It’s a very niche sort of nerd.
  3. Last year, we had the privilege of seeing a sensational production of Titus Andronius on the outdoor stage. We were apprehensive all day that a storm was going to break and force the show indoors, but instead of rain, we just got lightning and thunder, meaning that during the most climactic moments of Shakespeare’s darkest show, the sky was full of lightning. It’s the sort of magic you can’t pay for or plan.
  4. This year, I felt like I needed to go because of one particular play we saw: Peter and the Star-Catcher. Remember how I saw this play a few months ago in New York? Well I saw it again in Cedar City5 and had one of the most emotional reactions to a play I’ve ever had. It is a beautiful play in its own right, but it was one of those strange and serene coincidences where a certain piece of art comes to you right when you need it, and it changes you6.
  5. I realize it isn’t Shakespeare. They don’t just do Shakespeare.
  6. Not a joke, I am tearing up just thinking about it. It may be years before I can think about Peter and the Starcatcher without tearing up.
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in which we make art

I should have blogged about this a while ago, because this story is almost two weeks old. But at first, there weren’t any good pictures, and then other things were happening, and then I got busy. But then, two weeks later, something else awesome happened which held distinct parallels with the first awesome thing. So bear with me while we go backwards in time two weeks…

If you’ve ever been to my parents’ house, you will realize that it is a little bit different from most houses. I think the word is unique. Possibly eccentric. Chaotic, maybe, if you’re not one for free expression. But I like unique1. My mother, who handles most of the decor, has a sense of style that manifests itself in wonderful and unconventional ways, like decorating the kitchen with antique liquor bottles, paintings of cookies, baskets of gourds, and a single disc of the Catching Fire audiobook that was stolen out of my father’s car.

My mother encourages this same sort of home furnishing artistry in her children. When I was in high school and asked if I could paint musical theater lyrics on my bedroom door, she and my father helped me take it off its hinges and bought me paint. They even lent me their handprints. So I shouldn’t really have been surprised when a few weeks ago, my mom said, “You know what I’d really like for Mother’s Day? A mural on the back fence.”

This was not a new idea—she has apparently been lobbying for the MT’s art class to come paint her a mural all year, but that wasn’t quite in line with their idea of a good activity. But, after my impressive performance illustrating The Chamber of Secrets, she seemed to have a renewed and unexpected faith in my artistic abilities, and asked me if I’d like to do a mural.

Yes, of course I would, because I am always game for doing weird random things that involve mess and color. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

So I rallied the troops—the MT, and my friends Sondheim, Nevada2, and Pierre and Jean-Claude3. So two Saturdays ago, we donned our artist berets and prepared to create a masterpiece ala the Sistine Chapels4. The theme—children’s literature.

Nevada and I have negative artistic talent. Sondheim peruses it as a hobby. The MT is wildly talented. And as it turns out, so are Pierre and Jean-Claude. I said in passing, “Hey someone should paint Max from Where the Wild Things Are, since that’s my favorite book.” A little while later, I looked over and there was a life-sized Max painted on the fence. Maurice Sendak himself could not have done it better. They also did some spray paint magic that would have put Graffiti Pete5 to shame.

It took several grueling hours, and a lot of paint, but by the evening, our three-panel masterpiece was complete.

There is the amazingly unbelievable “wild rumpus” panel, done by Jean-Claude and Pierre…

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oh look! There’s even Pierre and Jean-Claude themselves! Don’t they look like artists?

The gorgeously beautiful fantasy panel, by Sondheim and the MT…

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And the “good for you” garden panel, by Nevada and I…

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And yes, we are for hire. We’ll paint your fence, any theme you like—all we require is cookies and paint! And for a few extra dollars, Nevada and I won’t even touch a brush.

Then, at the risk of overloading this post, this past weekend, I got to be a part of something equally as cool and artsy. The MT was a featured artists in the Utah Chalk Art Festival and she completed this masterpiece! I had much less to do with this one–I mostly watched and occasionally fetched Dr. Pepper. But I was very proud of the MT and her skills! Between fence painting, chalk art, and the Harry Potter art, it has been an unexpectedly artsy summer.

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  1. The most common comparisons that get drawn to our house are the Weasley house in Harry Potter and an I Spy book.
  2. The old Chicago roommate—remember her?
  3. High school friends. Not their real names.
  4. Which is not the Sixteen Chapels, like I thought it was when I was younger.
  5. Musical theater reference FTW.
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