Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cute Little Crabs

So, here's a problem.
Crabs are not cute.
Not cute at all.
They are not cuddly and, frankly, unless they were incorporated into the delicious splendor of Crab Rangoon, I never gave crabs much thought.
Until a few weeks ago when I was approached by an editor at Islandport Press. She was looking for an illustrator for a book about a family of crabs who go on vacation to the beach.
Because seriously, where else would crabs go? Out for Chinese food? Not likely.
My friend, Lita Judge,  passed my name along to Melissa, the editor at Islandport, suggesting, I suppose, that I seemed like the kind of guy who ate a lot of Crab Rangoon and, as a result, might be able to draw crabs very well.
The logic of it is lost on me, but somehow, my preoccupation with greasy Chinese appetizers won over the heart and mind of Melissa and I got the job.
So now I am faced with the daunting challenge of spending the next year in my studio, trying to make crabs look cute and lovable. My frequent research trips to the local Chinese food joint for Crab Rangoon have yielded little in the way of practical help in drawing crabs, but I will keep trying.
And now those snacks are tax-deductible.
My first challenge was not actually making the crabs look cute, but making the crabs work like humans. In the story, the crabs have all sorts of wacky adventures that require more of them than might be expected of your average crab. I needed to make them able to move like humans. To that end, I made the executive decision to play Darwin and evolve one set of legs off of them.
Quick marine biology lesson:
In addition to their claws, crabs have 4 sets of legs. I learned this, not from my extensive Chinese food research, but from looking at actual, unprocessed-for-consumption, crabs.
It occurred to me that eight legs would be getting in the way all the time, so I opted to create a family of rare six-legged crabs for the book.
The other immediate problem I faced–and I know this is a very species-ist, politically incorrect comment for me to make–is that crabs all look alike to me. Especially when they are looking like appetizers.
Maybe I haven't spent enough time really looking at crabs, but, if faced with a family of crabs, I would have a difficult time telling one from the other.
I assumed, perhaps rashly and selfishly, that other people might have this same trouble.
I opted to put clothes on the crabs to help readers identify which crab is which. You'd be surprised how difficult it is to make a really nice bathing suit for a crab.
I sent these initial sketches to Melissa at Islandport and her first comment was, "You know that crabs have four sets of legs, right?"
I explained that I did know that. My response, that crabs also do not typically dress up like tourists and go on family vacations, was accurate, but held no sway with her.
The crabs could wear clothes, they could use cameras, they could purchase tacky souvenirs, but they could not have only three sets of legs. In her defense, Melissa saw the humor in this, but still did not relent.
I have since come to terms with the crabs' eight-leggedness. I still haven't been able to whole-heartedly embrace them as cute and cuddly, however.
Tasty? Yes.
Cute? Not really.
Perhaps one more tax-deductable trip to the Chinese restaurant will convince me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Boogers and Farts Got Censored. But Not My Underpants.

I was recently asked if I'd be willing to submit myself to the grueling ordeal of answering 5 questions for a regular weekly newspaper column called...
Are you ready?

5 Questions!

Of course, I was delighted to have the opportunity to expose myself (figuratively) to the many thousands of people who read the New Hampshire Sunday News. 

Nancy, the reporter who writes the column, further delighted me by letting me know that she had actually read about the tattoo contest I'm running here on my blog. While she wasn't actually ready to have me inked into her skin permanently, she did tell me that an ex-boyfriend of hers has a tattoo of her, complete with horns, tail, and––most alarmingly–skis. I am still waiting for someone to get a Marty Kelley tattoo, but I have faith that it will happen some day. If not, I'll check in with Nancy's ex.

Nancy went on delighting me by sending me 5 questions which went far beyond the normal "Where do you get your ideas?" sort of interrogation that I am frequently subjected to. She wanted to get to the very heart of what I do. She understood the essence of my work. The first 4 questions were fine and entertaining and well thought out, but it was question 5 that really got me.

"Why do kids find boogers so funny?"

 I've spent years picking my nose, searching for an answer to this question, waiting and waiting for some brave soul to ask. I was ready. I answered:

"It’s not just kids. I still think boogers are hilarious. I’m also a huge fan of farts and underpants. I think for kids, they get a sort of subversive thrill out of reading about things that are generally not mentioned in polite conversation. I have run into lots of people who frown on this idea of employing crude humor in children’s books. The fact is, kids love it. The books are for the kids. If they love it, they will read it. Everyone needs to read and if all it takes is a booger to get a kid to enjoy reading, I’m happy to oblige.
And, really, let’s face it; boogers are funny."

I'm sure you'll agree that I was absolutely brilliant there. Well thought out, eloquent, intelligent, and crammed with gratuitous uses of the word "booger".

I sent it off to her, she thanked me, and we both went about our business, satisfied with a job well done.

Several weeks later, I actually saw the article, thanks to alert parents who regularly scan the police blotter looking for any mention of me. I glanced at the article and realized immediately that something was wrong.

No, it's not the picture. that's what I really look like, smart-guy. Look at the last question.

Do you see a problem?
No. Not the weird punctuation around the words crude humor in the question.
The boogers?
Where are the boogers?
One measly booger? Where are the farts?

And why in the world did they change my sentence to read, "I'm also a huge fan of underpants."? Without the booger/fart context, it makes me look like some kind of weirdo who gets his jollies with undies. Like I have a collection of underpants or some strange fascination with boxers or something.

I mentioned this to Nancy in an email and she explained that it was her editor's heavy hand that made me look like an underpants freak, not hers. The NH Sunday News is known for having a rather strong right-wing bias, but I strongly suspect that Republicans wear underpants, too. Sensible, navy blue ones, no doubt.

If I ever do find out who her editor is, I'll march right into his office and tell him a thing or two.

As soon as I finish arranging, dusting, and waxing my underpants collection.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lego Marty!

My son, Alex is a confirmed Lego-maniac, often disappearing for hours on end in his room to create some elaborate masterpiece of engineering.
But now he has outdone himself. The other night I was slaving away in my studio when he came in with his hands behind his back. Instinctively, I sprang from my seat, executed a perfect ninja-like dive and roll, and hid behind my trash can. He smiled and brought his hands from behind his back to reveal the most exquisite, beautiful creation I have ever witnessed.
It was me.
Made out of Legos.
He managed to capture not only my rugged good looks and outstanding sense of fashion, but the arm is fully articulated and allows the Lego-Marty to move its hand in delicate, graceful arcs, as if drawing.
It was like watching a movie of myself. Except the Lego-Marty uses its left hand to hold the pencil, a feat I have yet to master.
While Alex was sadly unable to make the Lego-Marty actually draw without some sort of manual intervention, he did have the foresight to include an easel with an attached piece of drawing paper.

I've had the Lego-Me in my studio for several days, and while it does add a certain visual charm to the ambiance of my studio, I am sad to report that it has yet to begin actually doing my work for me.
I had secretly hoped that the Lego-Me would magically come to life at night and illustrate books for me.
At the very least, I had entertained the wish that I might be able to send it to schools to do author visits for me while I lounged around in bed, sipping coffee and reading. It's not that I don't like doing school visits. I do.
I just like lounging around in bed even more.
Alex is currently hard at work on the new, improved, school-visiting, book-illustrating Lego-Marty and I'll let him out of his bedroom as soon as it's finished.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good News; Bad News

Let me tell you a story about a story.
It's a sad story about a funny story.
Kind of.
I think.
But, I'm not positive.
A long, long time ago, I wrote a book called Childhood Trauma #4, Give Auntie Lulu A Kiss. I sent it out to a few publishers and nobody was too interested.
Until I sent it to Tricycle Press.
An editor named Abi got back to me and told me that Tricycle wasn't interested, either.
"BUT!", she said, "How would you like to do an entire book of childhood traumas?"
Who could possibly say no to an offer like that?
I spent the next year and a half of my life creating the artwork for my book, Twelve Terrible Things.
This is actually the introduction to the story I wanted to tell you. Please stay tuned, here. The introduction is important.
Over the years, I have continued to send Abi my work and she has always been happy to reject it for one reason or another. That's okay. That's the way this business goes.
Eventually I sent her a book called Albert's Almost Adequate Adventure and Abi got back to me and told me that Tricycle wasn't interested.
"BUT!" she said, [do you see a theme developing here?] "How would you like to take the character of Albert and use him in a chapter book?"
Who could possibly say no to an offer like that?
I spent the next several months writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, not one, but three chapter books about a boy named Simon and his pals, Munch and Ralph.

I really enjoyed writing it and Abi seemed to enjoy reading it. I sent the first book to her almost two years ago. She made some suggestions for revisions about the characters, the plot, the excessive use of boogers and puking I had employed, and I dutifully revised.
I continued working on stories about Simon because I really, really enjoyed writing them.
While they were under consideration by Tricycle, Random House bought Tricycle.
"This will be great!" everyone suggested, "Random House has much bigger distribution!"
I waited and waited to hear back from Abi about the fate of Simon, Munch, and Ralph.
There were big changes at Tricycle but things were moving slowly for my poor book.
Abi had suggested the book to me in the first place and I really liked working with her, so I was patient.

Eventually, I decided that something needed to happen with Simon. Abi was trying to get it published, but I was tired of waiting. I told her that I was going to start sending it out to other publishers and Abi said that I had been more than fair, letting them have it exclusively for so long. She said that she was still very hopeful that it would happen soon, though.

I sent Simon out to another publisher and heard back from them after about two weeks. The editor thought it was very funny and suggested some revisions that she would like to see.

I was debating about whether this was a development I needed to tell Abi about, when she sent me an email.

Random House is shutting down Tricycle.

I was terribly disappointed to hear that. I enjoyed working with Abi and I had been waiting over two years to find out about Simon. Just as it seemed to be happening, they are being shut down by the company that just bought them. If Tricycle had bought the book, it could have just been orphaned there, I suppose. It happens.
Abi has very kindly offered to pass the manuscript on to an editor at a different imprint at Random House.

Presumably, one that isn't being shut down.

So, in spite of all the anxious waiting and the disappointment, the bright side is that the book got written and now there is a publisher interested in seeing some revisions.

Maybe they'll publish it before they go out of business, too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another New Portrait

And, it seems I've already used this title for a post. It's a good thing that Google is here looking out for me.
This is a pencil drawing I did as a demonstration for a portrait class I'm teaching. This one took a couple of weeks. I'm still not totally convinced that it's finished, but it's pretty darned close...

Friday, November 5, 2010

And Another New One

I just started this portrait of my little niece, Sarah.

My little niece who now towers over me by several inches.

This is a necessary step in my artistic development.

Many years ago, Sarah's parents, Shelly and Greg, were kind enough to let Kerri and me live with them for a few months.

In thanks, I thoughtfully bequeathed unto them a watercolor portrait of their two adorable children. It was my first watercolor portrait ever and looking at it now, I reel in the stark horror of its total awfulness.

I can only hope that this one will be much, much, much, much, much, much, much better.

We shall see.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another New Portrait

Here is a recent (like finished 2 hours ago) pencil portrait of Alex. This one took about a week and a half.

I tried a few new things here, all of which failed miserably, I'm afraid. The paper is too rough, I couldn't get nearly enough fine detail, I tried toning the paper with watercolor which, in theory, I like, but it looks a little wonky. I also tried adding white highlights and I'm not so happy with those either.

In spite of all that, it still looks like him, which is a good thing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Keene was Keen & A Possible Tattoo

First, let me apologize for that weak and fairly lame title to this post. It's early and my coffee has yet to fully kick in.

And, I'm still recovering from this past weekend at the Keene State Children's Literature Festival. It was an amazing experience being a speaker at such a prestigious event. And I'm sure that my presentation, full of references to farts and boogers, did much to enhance the overall tone of the festival.

Certainly my failed attempt at putting bunny ears on David White during a picture taking moment added to the elegant glamour of the final dinner.

Pictured above are: Me (dressed in my finest formal jeans and t-shirt), David White (The festival organizer, whose hand is prepared to give me a Vulcan Death Grip should I try one more time to give him bunny ears), Paul Janeczko (A wonderful poet and very cool guy from Maine whose last name appears to be missing some vowels or something), Jeanette Winters (who had the coolest glasses I have ever seen - I suspect that they gave her x-ray vision, but she wouldn't let me try them), Chris Raschka (A Caldecott winning illustrator from New York) and Susan Cooper (author of The Dark Is Rising Series and a very funny lady).

David works hard at organizing this Festival lining up some of the biggest names in Children's Literature to speak every year.

I still cannot fathom why he asked me to participate.

My guess is that one of his festival advisers jokingly said, "You know what this festival needs? More booger jokes. And fart jokes." And David, perhaps in a weakened condition from correcting his ten thousandth term paper, agreed and emailed me, asking me to participate.

When I did get that email from David, over a year ago, I was so excited that I did a little happy dance around my house. It is fortunate for all of us that no video footage is available of that dance. Particularly because I got the email early one morning, and was still in my Homer Simpson jammies with the big rip in the seat.

I did however, post a short video of part of my presentation. See it over there on the right side of the page? I was trying to read some of my more serious poetry about wedgies and farts and the whole darned audience kept interrupting me with raucous laughter.

The entire festival weekend was a whirlwind of dinners, socials, gallery tours, lunches, and fun. David and his husband, Ken hosted a terrific party at the Irish Cottage that they built on their property. The whiskey flowed like wine. The Guinness flowed like whiskey.

It was an amazing experience and it would have been impossible to pick out one favorite part of the weekend if it weren't for a young lady named Rachel.

Despite all the terrific things that happened and the incredible honor of being asked to speak at the festival, the greatest moment of the weekend (and possibly my entire life) happened at lunch the day of the festival.

I had mentioned during my presentation that I am offering free books for life for anyone who is willing to get a Marty Kelley tattoo (see previous posts). I suspected that if there was ever a crowd where someone might take me up on this offer, a room full of teachers, college students, and librarians would be it.

Those people know how to party.

At lunch, Rachel - dear, sweet, wonderful Rachel - eclipsed all my previous earthly delights by saying, "$40 for a tattoo in exchange for all those books? Heck Yeah! I'm in! Do I have to get it in a certain spot?"

I explained that I did want to post pictures of her tattoo on this blog, so she might consider keeping it in a PG location, though, should she decide otherwise, I may start a different blog just to share it.

Perhaps she will attend next year's conference and you will get a chance to see it for yourself.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Art!

Very little to read here.
This is my latest portrait. It's all pencil. It's my daughter, Tori, assuming a sickeningly dreamy pose.

I was pretty happy with the drawing, though.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New York, NEW YORK!

The first thing that you need to know about Corning, New York, where I am currently sitting in a hotel room, is that it is a 500 bazillion hour drive* from my home in New Hampshire.

(*estimated drive time)

You may also be interested to hear that there is an entire museum here dedicated to glass (yes, as in Corningware, Corning, NY - get it?) and there is a lovely downtown area with coffee shops, art galleries and at least a dozen stores that purport to sell "Country Crafts" or some variant thereof.

The most important thing to know about the town of Corning is that the Vegetable Samosas and the Palak Paneer at the Thali of India Restaurant are unimaginable delicious and palate damagingly spicy. I've no doubt that the lingering scent of my dinner will remain in my hotel room long after I have departed. As will the echos of my screams from its spicy deliciousness.

I was invited to Corning by The Alternative School for Math and Science, which, you may be interested to know, is an alternative school that focuses on math and science. I waltzed in and gave a few quick, snappy lessons on advanced particle physics and really wowed them.

The school is a small private middle school with a fun staff and a bunch of very nice kids. I don't often have an opportunity to visit middle school, but when I do, I mention it to friends who invariably say, "You're going to a MIDDLE SCHOOL?" as if I had just informed them that I was planning on taking a long, splashy swim through shark infested waters wearing a bacon bathing suit.

(Note: I do not own a bacon bathing suit.)

It seems that middle school kids in general scare the pants off of most adults. If they knew how much they frightened most adults, they would take over the world and probably force us all to get our hair cut like Justin Bieber or something.

In my personal experience, I have found middle school kids to be funny and very pleasant. Sure they dress weird and have bad hair and smell kind of funny, but so do I.
Especially since my pungent Indian dinner.
Did I mention already how delicious that was?

So, as expected, my time at this middle school today was delightful. And the kids–those terrifying, monstrous middle school kids–sat patiently when, about 2 seconds before my presentation, the bulb burned out in my LCD projector. They sat patiently as several staff members scrambled to find a replacement projector for me. They sat patiently as the 8 month pregnant tech-teacher quickly and efficiently switched projectors and got me up and running again.

Then, they sat patiently when, 4 minutes later, the second projector failed and we had to try yet again.

The kids didn't hoot and holler and try to steal my soul through a hole they chewed in my chest as so many of my peers seem to think middle school kids would do. They sat and chatted quietly with their friends and occasionally offered helpful advice like, "Try wiggling the cord thingie."

I assumed that they had covered electrical engineering in their science classes already, so I took their advice.

It worked.

I'm looking forward to my day at the school tomorrow, knowing that if I do have any technical problems, the kids can tell me which cord thingie I should be wiggling.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Death Defying, Spine Tingling Children's Literature Festival!!!

So, as you are no doubt aware, the posts you read on this blog are listed from newest to oldest. The oldest, by the way, being a fascinating expose of me installing a new floor in the library of my old home. As an odd coincidence, I have just spent the last few days stripping and refinishing that same floor.


Yeah. I suppose.

Coincidences abound today, however. Earlier this morning, I was slaving over my blog, basically groveling for people to:

1. Get a tattoo of me in order to win free books for life (mine, not yours).

2. Go to the Children's Literature Festival in Keene, NH on October 30th (plenty of free parking!).

In my post, I may have casually mentioned the indoor fireworks display I was developing as part of my presentation.

Within hours of posting that, I received a fairly ominous email attachment from someone at Keene State College.

Coincidence this time?
I'm not so sure.

The attachment on the email was called "Hold Harmless Form" and contained, among many others, the following clause:


(a.) Participating in the Children’s Literature Festival activities involve risks and dangers of serious bodily injury, including permanent disability, paralysis and death (“Risks”);

I don't know about you, but I am simply tingling with anticipation to see what's in store for us at the festival this year. All the Festivals I have attended in the past were fun, but I can't remember a single one where I was in fear for my life.
Seriously, if I had to sign a waiver like that, you don't want to miss this festival.
Come to the festival.

Bring a helmet.


Yes. I'm trying this again.

It's contest time.

This picture is here to help you with the contest. Pay attention, now...

You see, there is this wonderful Children's Literature Festival coming up in Keene, NH at the end of the month. I have mentioned this before, but I'm guessing that with your hectic life, it may have slipped from the forefront of your consciousness.

I don't want that to happen again, because, while all the Keene State festivals are cool, this year's will be Extra-Super-Cool based solely on the fact that I will be one of the speakers at it. I've been working hard on my presentation and, despite a few unfortunate setbacks with the planned indoor fireworks display, it should be a presentation that I will never be allowed to repeat anywhere, at any time, for any reason.

You really should make plans to be there. Which brings me, however circuitously, to the contest that I am trying to resuscitate from the decaying, dusty pile of "older posts" where it has been languishing.

This will help you keep me foremost in your mind.
At all times.
As it should be.

I know, that these trying economic times can be–well–trying. In an effort to help you stock your book shelves and, at the same time, beautify the world, I am once again offering my "Get A Marty Kelley Tattoo And Win Free Books For Life Contest" or, "GAMKTAWFBFLC" for short.

I'll be working on a catchier acronym, I guess.

Here's the deal: Go out and find a competent tattoo artist and get a tattoo of me.
It can be a picture or a delightful message like "Marty Kelley Rocks" or a big heart with my name in it, or whatever else strikes your fancy. I do ask, for your sake, that you take the time to find a tattoo artist with some actual drawing skills. You don't want to wind up with one of these disasters smeared across your skin:

Remember that picture at the top of the post? Go ahead and use it!

And please take the time to make sure that you spell my name correctly. It's Marty Kelley. You might consider administering a spelling test to the artist before any needles start buzzing.

So, that's about it.  Get a tattoo of me, send me a picture, and I'll send you a copy of each of my books and a copy of all my future books. 
And, it has to be a real tattoo, don't go scrawling all over yourself with magic marker. Seriously.
that's cheating.

I'd prefer not to have my name and/or likeness inked all over your rear-end or armpit or something. This is me we're talking about.

Let's keep it tasteful, people.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's Finished!

This is quite possibly my favorite portrait yet. This one was a big challenge for many reasons.

Sit back, relax, and listen to my litany of woes:

• Reflections in the sunglasses
• Dark skin with a rainbow of colors reflected in it
• Beard with white hairs

Okay. I'm done whining. This one was on the board for almost two months. I'm still not 100% convinced that it's finished, but it's pretty close...

It was a big challenge, but I'm happy with the results.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome to New Hampshire. Please Try Not To Die on Our Mountains.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, firstly, you deserve great rewards and riches. I will not be providing them, of course, but you most certainly deserve them.

Secondly, you may remember a recent post about a car ride up the treacherous, tortuous slopes of Mount Washington. If you need a moment to scroll down and refresh your memory, please, feel free.

Ever since our drive up Mount Washington, my daughter Tori has been aching (a verb that soon proved to be aptly chosen) to climb up Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England and home of the world's worst weather. She chose her hiking outfit carefully. Her zip-up monkey pajamas are designed to keep her snuggly and warm, even in the face of all of nature's fury.

Nature's fury proved to be 70 degrees and cloudless, however, rendering the high-tech monkey pajamas entirely unnecessary, but still extremely fashionable.

We drove to The Cog Railway base station where the hiker parking lot is located. The parking lot, at 8:30 a.m. was already crowded, promising a busy day on the trails. 

And it was. 

I have done a bit of hiking with my good friend Julie over the last couple of years and, until last Saturday, Mt. Monadnock held the title of being the most crowded hike I have had the misfortune of taking. Now, Mount Washington is clearly the winner. There was a steady stream of hikers all the way up the mountain. And all the way down. Our planned hike would take us up Mt. Monroe, over to Mt. Washington, then down Mt. Clay. Three mountains, but only one actual "summiting experience" which is the moment you get to touch the metal geological survey tag marking the summit and then trudge off back down the mountain in search of the nearest ice cream shop.

We began up the Ammonoosuk Ravine Trail, which, believe it or not, is actually spelled correctly. It was a beautiful hike, following along the Ammonoosuk River and affording excellent views of waterfalls and sweaty hikers gasping for breath and chatting away on their cell phones.

We neared the Lake in the Clouds hut and were rewarded with a view of the summit of Mt. Washington that seemed tangibly close.

You will notice the joy on our faces at seeing the distant peak of Mt. Washington. We rested briefly at the Lake in the Clouds hut. Tori was understandably chagrined to find that the Lake in the Clouds is more like a large puddle on a hill, but seriously, who'd climb three and a half hours over treacherous terrain to see a puddle on a hill?

We headed off toward the summit and were met with this helpful, encouraging sign along the trail.

In case you can't make it out, it tells the eager traveler to STOP. The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad. Our spirits soared with the welcoming hospitality of the Forest Service and we skipped along the 1.4 miles separating us from our destination.

An hour or so later, we trudged on to the summit where hordes of tourists milled about, snapping pictures of each other against the fairly spectacular background scenery and at the summit marker. There were so many people, in fact, that we actually had to stand in line to pose at the summit.

You can see the majestic beauty of the White Mountains spread out behind us. You cannot see the majestic beauty of the through-hikers who are stopping at the summit on their way along the Appalachian Trail. Neither can you smell the majestic odors which the through-hikers trail behind them like an olfactory tail.

We chose to lunch on the observation deck, where the odors were quickly dispelled and then began our descent toward the car, which by that time, seemed dispiritingly far away. We could, of course, have cheated and bought a couple of the $47 one-way tickets on the Cog Railroad, but we are made of sterner stuff than that.

Besides, then we would have been deprived of the joy and beauty of the hike back down, which crosses the Cog Railway tracks and affords hikers the opportunity to moon the passengers on the train.
Of course, Tori and I were aghast at this appalling tradition, but we do ask that if you were on the 2:10 train going down the hill and you had your camera out, that you do not show your pictures to my wife.

The trip down the hill was more difficult than the trip up had been, but the scenery, including the gentleman hiking down the mountain clad only in a tasteful pair of boxer shorts and some sturdy hiking boots, made it an interesting trek.

Tori was very eager to get back to the parking lot because I had brought along a tiny camping stove and some leftover dinner from the night before so we could have a warm meal in the parking lot after the hike. She explained to me, as we walked down the hill, that cooking on the little burner in the parking lot was the part of the hike that she was most excited about.

"We could have just gone out in the back yard and cooked dinner there," I suggested.
"Oh, yeah," she said, "I never thought of that."

By the time we reached the car, nine hours and fifteen minutes after we had left it, we were both tired and sore and hungry.

But it was time for DINNER IN THE PARKING LOT!!!!

By the time I had assembled the burner and got everything ready, Tori decided that cooking in the parking lot was not as spectacular or thrilling as she had thought it might be.

"I thought there'd be a lot of flames and sparks; like when you weld stuff," she explained.

We ate our disappointing, flame and spark free dinner and headed back home where Tori asked that I please post a picture of her blister here to serve as a sort of warning to others who may want to hike the mighty Mount Washington.

Consider yourself warned.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A New Pencil Portrait

This is a pencil portrait I've been working on for about a week now. I loved this girl's hair. This was a quick sketch that spiraled out of control and wound up being a big project. I'm sad to report that about half way through the drawing, I was working outside, taking advantage of the beautiful weather and the entire board fell off my easel, so the paper got rather wrinkled. It's sort of like an unwanted age-progression process on the drawing.

I was happy with it, though, wrinkles and all.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On the Easel Right Now

I've been spending a lot more time daydreaming about the life of a reclusive artist, painting away in a filthy garret studio, sipping red wine and acting all sensitive and stuff.

Frankly, it's an unappealing sounding life.
Except for the painting part.
And the wine, I guess.

I've been doing a lot more portrait work lately and this is my latest venture. I found the photo online and absolutely loved the colors on this guy's face. Dark skin has always been a challenge for me to paint in watercolor because so many of the brown pigments lift right off the paper if you paint over them again.

So for this one, I tried something new - no browns. This is painted entirely (so far) from 5 paints: 2 blues, 2 reds, and a yellow. I also wound up using a very small amount of white in his beard (for the fine hairs on his cheeks), something I rarely use.

There's still a lot more work do do on his face before I even get to the rest of it. His lips aren't finished and I suspect there will be more work to do on the reflections in the glasses.

I have no idea how many hours I've put into this one so far, but I suspect I'm due for a few hundred more before it's finished.

Please pass the wine.

As a ridiculous side note, I really enjoy the contrast between this and the sketch I did in my sketchbook last night.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Celebrating the End of Summer by Sitting in the Car.

A few days ago, Kerri and I realized that summer is rapidly drawing to a close and we had not once heard the plaintive cries of "Are we there yet?" drifting up from the back seat of our car.

We chastised ourselves for our appalling lack of concern for our children and promptly packed them into the back seat for a long drive up to Mount Washington where we would celebrate the end of the long car ride by driving up the mountain.

Then driving back down the mountain.

Then driving home.

I have hiked up many mountains in the White Mountain region (see previous posts to read about all my exciting adventures with Julie of the Wild).  On those hikes with Julie of the Wild, I have had ample opportunity to view the splendor and beauty of the roiling miasma of clouds that perpetually enshroud the summit of Mount Washington.

Mount Washington is known for having some of the worst weather on the planet, so we prepared for our expedition the same way the original explorers did. By tossing some sweatshirts in the back of the car.

After a long ride northward, during which the kids had ample opportunity to whine about how long the ride was, we arrived at the base of the mountain and delighted the children by telling them that, not only did we have more driving to do, but the drive will be terrifying, as indicated by the helpful, reassuring sign posted at the bottom of the auto road.

The dark and threatening clouds crowding the horizon provided that added level of comfort that made the journey one that will long be carved into our collective memories.

We started up the road, listening to to the CD provided by the helpful folks who collect the small fortune you must fork over before risking your life on their road. The CD's narrator has a smooth, friendly voice that provides a brilliant distraction from the bladder-emptying terror of the drive up this winding, tortuous road.

Throughout the soothing CD, the narrator reminds you to stop frequently to cool your brakes and to reassure you that, despite having points along the drive with names like "Oh My God Curve", there have been surprisingly few fatalities along the Auto Road (There have been three. I checked.)

While my knuckles were welded to the steering wheel, Kerri was kind enough to take a few pictures so I could enjoy the scenery that I was missing by trying not to plummet off the crumbling edge of the road.

We did arrive safely at the top and were richly rewarded with 45 mph winds and 50 foot visibility.
And rain.
If you are interested in what the summit actually looks like, I can only suggest that you have a look for yourself because I have no idea. The dense fog made any long distance sight-seeing somewhat difficult.

I understand that there are alleged to be some buildings up there and I suspect that this may be them, but it still looks something like a scene out of Star Wars to me. We did manage to find the building that has been chained to the ground to prevent it from being blown away. (Absolutely true.)

Sadly, I was not chained to the ground and blew away just as this picture was snapped of my family at the summit.

At least, I think that's my family. It was a little hard to see up there.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A New Video For Your Entertainment, Enlightenment, and Edification

Oh yeah.
It finally happened.
The long awaited (by me) video for Summer Stinks - The Super Cool Punk Rock Version is now available for the world to see.

I spent Tuesday afternoon up at Rockinghorse Studios with my family and Steve Blunt and his daughter, Mary and my good friends Julie and Scott.

We ran around and acted like goons and filmed ourselves. The result, I am happy to report, looks like a bunch of goons running around and filming themselves.

At least, I look like that. My friends all look very cool and suave and sophisticated.

It was a lot of fun and you should watch the video a bazillion times so I become a YouTube sensation and am rocketed to fame like all those other YouTube sensations like... uh... you know... um... uhhhhhh...

Rock on.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Slacker, you say? Oh, no.

So, you may have noticed that I haven't been updating my blog as much as I possibly could. That is true, but there are reasons.
No. It's not that I'm a slacker.
I've actually been writing some longer chapter books and for some odd reason, taking a break from writing a book by writing a blog does not seem like enough of a change on some days.

Also, I have been doing more hiking with my pal Julie.

In fact, we were supposed to go for a hike tomorrow, but she flaked out at the last minute citing some weak reason. "Oh," she said, "I just got back from a two day trip to Pittsburgh [or Detroit or somewhere, I wasn't really paying attention] and my plane was delayed and then I had to go up north for a party or something [I still wasn't really paying attention] and now I'm at a bridal shower [or a baby shower or something] and I'm just mentally exhausted."

She did say that she was mentally exhausted. That much I heard for sure. I helpfully pointed out that hiking doesn't actually require enormous amounts of mental stamina.

You see a mountain, you walk up it.   

It's basically that easy. Sure, you have to figure out how to turn around 180 degrees and return to you car, but still, the real heavy thinking revolves around what kind of ice cream you get after the hike.

But still, she was unapologetic about wimping out.

Our last hike was not a 4,000 footer. We climbed Mount Chocorua (pronounced: Mount Chocorua) and my brave and intrepid daughter came along on this one. My brave and intrepid son opted to stay home and do yardwork with my wife, something that I would climb a dozen mountains in succession to avoid.

I put this picture in at this point because I know you crazy kids with your clicky fingers. Confronted with several unbroken paragraphs of text, you begin to get antsy and you go clicking away, searching for something more visually stimulating and shiny. So, to keep you here a moment longer, that is a picture of my daughter, after the hike, indicating the mountain that she had just climbed.
The photo is not actual size, the mountain is much bigger in person.
If you don't believe me, go hike it yourself. It seems that about a million other people do each day.

I was recently at the top of tiny Mount Monadonock (pronounced: Mount Chocorua). It is reputed to be the most climbed mountain in the world. Judging by the swarming packs of people on cell phones cluttering the summit, I can well believe it.

Mount Chocorua is likely the second most climbed mountain in the world, as the population of the summit was close to that of Beijing.

Here are some more pictures so you can see the amazing view of other people you get when you climb a mountain.

This one is Julie being swept away in a crowd of people. The hand in the foreground belongs to an unlucky traveler who was run down in a stampede of LL Bean clad hiker wannabees.

Here is one final picture. This one is of Victoria and me making the universal hiking hand signal for "I made it up to the top of the mountain without plummeting down any sheer walls of slippery granite." We were using the binoculars to try to read the sign at the ice cream stand, but it didn't work out that well. There were too many people in the way.

In the immediate foreground, you can see a sliver of the lady who, for some inexplicable reason, chose the summit marker as a place to practice her yoga poses.Many people like to touch summit markers or take their pictures at them. It was entertaining watching people try to slip their hands under her as she was doing her downward facing dog move or whatever it was.

We made it down safely and did get ice cream. I got Raspberry White Chocolate (pronounced: Mount Chocorua) and it was tasty.

Tomorrow, however, as Julie is so mentally tired, there will be no ice cream for me.

I'll probably be doing yard work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Not So Action Packed

I may have to downgrade the title of my blog to something like "Marty's Static Blog: Now With 28% Less Action."

It's not that I have been less active, simply that I have not shared my dozens of thrilling adventures with the world at large.  If anything, I have been more active than normal, traipsing through the woods after my good friend Julie who insists upon dragging me up towering mountains in her wake.

I suspect that she enjoys my sparkling company and ready wit. I took the liberty of recording this recent exchange we had at the summit of Mount Monroe:

Julie: Isn't this an amazing view?
Me: Huhhhhhh... wheeeeeezzzzzzze... phnuuuuuuufffffff...

You can see why dragging me along would do much to lift anyone's spirits. She was right, of course. The view was stupendous. At least the view that wasn't obscured by wavy, heat-generated haze.

This summer's intense heat and 200% humidity added to the festive atmosphere of our hike, giving it a feel reminiscent of the Bataan Death March. It made reaching the summit seem like even more of an achievement.

The view was also obscured by me celebrating the fact that I had not sweat to death on the hike. Yet.

If this were one of those new, fancy scratch-n-sniff blogs, you could truly savor the full experience of my sweaty machismo.

Our trip up the mountain followed a beautiful waterfall that beckoned to us, promising cool refreshment, salvation from the heat, and soul-shattering headaches from the frigid waters. Julie was actually tough enough to dive into one of these arctic pools during our descent. I was banned, under penalty of a protracted and unpleasant death from photographing her daring aquatic exploits. I will, instead, show you a picture of Julie sweating and a picture of the beautiful waterfall and allow you to mentally combine the two.

She was brave and tough and completely numb from head to toe after a few seconds in its heart-stoppingly cold depths. I had failed to bring a change of clothes and saw no joy slogging down the mountain in soggy, steamy cotton.

I steadfastly refuse to give into the ridiculous concept of hiking in any of those fancy sweat-wicking, high-tech clothes.
I prefer my clothes to be sweat-enhancing and low-tech
One of the high points about hiking in The White Mountains, especially along the grueling trails that Julie seems to favor, is that relatively few people are willing to spend their precious time on the earth hauling themselves up a hill like this. Thus, the hikes are generally full of solitude and quiet, allowing you to view wildlife in its natural habitat, uninfluenced by man.

On this hike, for example, we spotted the rare and elusive High Mountain Bean Squirrel.

We were first alerted to its presence by its haunting, fart-like call. We tracked it to its lair, a completely natural den that the High Mountain Bean Squirrel makes from locally mined steel and a secret blend of herbs and spices.

Julie has other hikes planned already. Since this coming Friday is predicted to be 4,000 degrees, she has decided that it will be a good day to do an even longer hike.

This time, I'm bringing my bathing suit.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

International Travel and Overpriced Pancakes

Among the more delightful aspects of being an internationally famous, dearly beloved author is the fact that sometimes I get to risk my life to eat thin pancakes.

A while ago, I was given an offer from my friends at The Children's Literature Foundation that started with, "Really. Feel free to say no."

Always a sign of good things to come.

In fact, this was an offer to visit the tiny island of Isle La Motte in Vermont. The "Feel free to say no" part referred only to the fact that the island is about a ga-jillion miles from the secret underground lair where I live and I wouldn't be reimbursed the normal $355,000,000,000 travel fee I would normally have charged.

I decided to go, despite the travel fee, because of an offer from Diane Reilly, the principal of  Isle La Motte Elementary School. Not only did she offer to treat my family and me to pizza (everyone knows I will drive hundreds of light years for free pizza), but she offered to put us up for a few days in The Turner Farmhouse, a really great rental house right on the shores of Lake Champlain.

So, naturally, I immediately yanked my kids out of school and we headed off to Vermont. If you're looking to visit Isle La Motte, and you really should, here are some helpful driving directions provided to me by Ms. Reilly:

"If coming by boat go North on Lake Champlain, we are the last island on the right before Canada. If you see flashing Border Patrol lights in the rear view turn around... we are then the first island on the left...."

So, basically, if you are coming by car–and we had to travel by car because my invisible rocket powered yacht was in dry dock having a helicopter pad attached to the solid gold hot tub–you drive north until you hit Canada, the just back up a little.

We managed to find the island without having a border related mishap. That came later.

The school was great and they did, as promised, come through with pizza. The veggie pizza even had cucumbers on it. Possibly a quaint island tradition, but tastier than you might think. I did a presentation in the evening (after pizza) and then returned the next day to do a presentation for the entire school. All 38 kids that were there that day. It was loads of fun. The older students had even worked with a local theater group to create theatrical adaptations of my book, The Rules.

It was the best theater I have ever seen in Vermont. Ever. It was very flattering and the kids did a terrific job. The entire community was obviously deeply committed to that school. It was wonderful to see.

And, speaking of Canada–and if you were paying attention, you will remember that I was speaking of Canada a few paragraphs ago–we were even able to make a quick trip up to Montreal after my presentation. We went in search of a place called The Biodome. It was fascinating, I suppose, as there were monkeys and piranhas and sharks and penguins on display, but my wife and I spent most of our day in Montreal recovering from the drive up there.

I'm going to let you in on a secret. If you live in Massachusetts, please skip to the beginning of the next paragraph.  People who live in New Hampshire have a preconception that drivers from Massachusetts are, for want of a better expression, blind, homicidal lunatics who shouldn't be allowed to drive under any circumstances, ever. In fact, my wife pointed out on our trip to Vermont that of all the ways to enter New Hampshire: through Maine, Vermont, or Massachusetts, the entry from Massachusetts is the only one where the roads are posted with signs that say "Please Drive With Courtesy. That's the New Hampshire Way."

True fact.

So, despite a lifetime of exposure to Massachusetts drivers' famed courtesy, we were unprepared for the slavering, bumper-riding mayhem that is a drive through Montreal. Once we peeled our fists from the dashboard and steering wheel and unpuckered our orifices, we were able to relax and enjoy the soothing bumper-to-bumper traffic as we wound our way through the city looking for someplace to get some authentic French Canadian food to eat.

We weren't able to find a single Tim Horton's Donuts, so we settled for a creperie (a word I probably just invented meaning, "A place that sells thin pancakes for ridiculously high prices") and stuffed our kids full of authentic French Canadian maple syrup and sugar, because that seemed like a good thing to do before we got back in the car for an exciting ride back through the city and a thrilling trip through customs.

Going through customs is just another way to remind yourself that the US may be a bit over-zealous in the border security department. To get into Canada, you drive up to a small, unassuming building where a lone agent sitting in a booth asks you where you're from and where you're going and if you happen to have any thermonuclear weapons in your glove compartment. Then he wishes you a "good day, eh" and sends you off to fend for yourself on the Montreal highways of doom.

To reenter the United States, you sit in a long, slow line of hostile Quebecois, angry because they are not driving at mach 4. You approach the impregnable customs fortress with its lights, dozens of cameras, radiation detection systems, smuggled Canadian Bacon sniffing canine units, and heavily armored vehicles. The well armed border guard subjects you to an interrogation about your entire life and any past lives and then, if you're lucky grudgingly admits you back into the country without a full body cavity search.

The next day we spent the entire day exploring the lovely Isle La Motte. At 16 square miles, it's a fairly easy place to explore, but it's delightful. There is a really cool quarry that you can walk through and search for fossils that are carpeting the place. It's very exciting because you get to feel like Indiana Jones without all the bother of poison darts, fist-fights, and evil soul-stealing zombies who pull your beating heart out of your chest and then drop you into a volcano.  They simply don't stand for that sort of behavior on Isle La Motte.  That's the Vermont Way!

And, our time on the island having come to an end, we headed for home making one quick stop in Burlington, VT for pizza. It didn't have any cucumbers on it, but it was all right.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Some Terrifying Lulu Action

You long time, hard-core Marty Kelley groupies out there–and I'm sure there are millions of you–may remember that for quite some time on my real website (not this fake Marty Kelley knock-off site you are looking at now), there was a picture of a Marty Kelley scarecrow displayed for some time.

Before I continue, I'd like to point out that I have managed to use my first and last names three separate times in the first sentence of this posting. That may be a new record.

Anyhow, librarian Sue Demanche was the evil mastermind behind the Marty Kelley (4!) scarecrow and now she has outdone herself, creating a horrifyingly realistic, life-sized statue of such osculating audacity that it must be named...

Auntie Lulu.

The mascot to my website (Click here if you missed the last link...) has brought terror to the hearts of thousands of visitors to my website (there's another chance...) beckoning them in and daring them to kiss her mustachioed candy-colored lips of doom.

Now Sue has taken this digital threat and brought it to life. The life sized Auntie Lulu doll was posed outside the doors to her library like a sleepless sentry in need of a kiss. Along with her dimpled arms and 250% polyester dress, Auntie Lulu came complete with pinned on wax lips that demanded kissing. Those oh-so-kissable lips also had a tendency to fall off at random times throughout the day, adding carpet lint to her lips for some exciting tactile textures during that kiss.

I begged and cried and whimpered in a very manly way, but there was no escape. I was forced to kiss Auntie Lulu.

It was actually far less pleasant than you may have expected.

Sue's attention to detail was stunning. In this picture, you have a clear view of the extremely fashionable Mr. PotatoHead earrings that she used to compliment Auntie Lulu's dress and really bring out the green in her eyes.

After I recovered from the shock and horror of meeting–and kissing–Auntie Lulu (actually, I don't think I'll ever fully recover) Sue was kind enough to let me rinse my mouth out with the rice crispy treats and fruit that she brought for breakfast. It was quite possibly the most perfect breakfast I have ever eaten.

Sue also has a real, genuine, honest-to-goodness rowboat in her library.

You will notice that Auntie Lulu is NOT in the rowboat. But, you never know where she might turn up next.
What's that behind you?
With the Mr. PotatoHead earrings?


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!

And, as if a tasty lunch and wonderful day getting lost in Holderness weren't enough, I had yet another opportunity to get lost driving to Portsmouth Tuesday night to see Chuck Palahniuk.

I'm happy to report that, due to excellent directions provided by Stephanie Finnegan at the school, I did not fall victim to the pervasive idea among the staff there that there is actually no way to get from Holderness to Portsmouth.
There is a way.

It just takes a really, really long time to do it.

But I made it, thank you very much.

I met my friends Katie and Steve (yes, I only hang out with people who have their own web sites) at The Friendly Toast, a delightful restaurant full of tacky souvenirs from days gone by and waiters and waitresses who have more ink tattooed on each of their arms, legs, and necks than I have used in a lifetime of professional illustration.

They serve excellent onion rings, too. Much better than those served at their sister restaurant, The Unfriendly Toast.

As an odd sort of coincidence, we all ordered falafel wraps and deep-fried something-or-other.
We gagged down our food and raced over to the South Church where the great Chuck was to address the thronging masses.

I feel a need to explain at this point that I am going to refer to him as Chuck, not because we are old pals or anything. Simply because it's much easier to type than Palahniuk.

This particular book event–and it was an event–was organized by the River Run Bookstore, an excellent independent bookstore in Portsmouth that, for some reason, didn't ask me to come sign copies of my most recent book, but maybe will have me come in the future, as I am posting this delightful praise of their excellent, superlative, really swell store.

I'll keep you posted on how that turns out...

So the bookstore held this Chuckstravaganza at the South Church because they figured that all the people who would want to see Chuck wouldn't fit in the store. With a ticket priced at $25 (but including a signed hardcover copy of his latest book, priced at $24.95) there were still over 400 people who came. These people know a bargain when they see it!
A five cent ticket?
I'm in!!

A brief introduction, in case you are unaware of the greatness which is Chuck. He is the author of Fight Club, Choke, Invisible Monsters, Haunted and many other books so profoundly disturbing and amazing and funny and horrifying that I can't actually think of  good way to end this sentence.

Haunted, for one example, is a novel of short stories including the infamous story, Guts, a tale so unimaginably horrifying in its excruciating detail, that it is reported that nearly 50 people have fainted while listening to Chuck do readings of it.

So, needless to say, I was very excited for the opportunity to listen to him speak, and possibly to pass out and sustain some sort of traumatic head injury as I toppled to the floor.

Katie, Steve, and I, due in large part to Katie's burning need to arrive several hours before the event was scheduled to start, were hanging around in the rockin' front row seats we had scored. The owner of River Run Books announced that there were signed copies of some of Chuck's previous books for sale at the back of the church.

I strolled back and purchased one book. I eyeballed another, but didn't purchase it. Back at my seat, I decided that I did, in fact, want that other book, but when I went back to get it, they had sold out. It was a bleak, black moment for me.

I wandered downstairs to go to the bathroom, an activity I find comforting in those bleak, black moments. When I was headed back upstairs to rejoin Steve and Katie and wallow in my misery at having missed a chance to get a signed copy of Haunted, I saw a large table, liberally spread with copies of Chuck's books. Among them, Haunted, with it's super cool glow-in-the-dark cover.

I sauntered over to see if I might purchase one. A friendly lady from the bookstore said that Sure, I could buy one, but Chuck couldn't personalize it because I didn't have one of the magical tickets that allowed me an opportunity to meet Chuck before the event and get my book personalized.
It was only then that I noticed Chuck himself standing there signing books.

No problem. I purchased my book and was prepared to merely bask in his reflected glory from a respectful distance when Chuck looked at me and held out his hand. "Hey. Let me personalize that for you," he said.

I may possibly have squealed a very manly little squeal of joy and I most certainly did a very manly little tippy-toe dance of elation.

And let me add that it's a good thing I had just used the bathroom, too.

I shook his hand and when someone there laughed about my "Life Is Adequate" shirt, I explained that I am a children's author and the shirt was a joke from one of my books. I told Chuck that I hoped people that read my books would grow up to read his.

He replied that he hoped the people who read his books would grow up at all.

I skipped upstairs to gloat and brag about my personalized book and the fact that Chuck had shaken my hand. Katie tried to touch my hand, no doubt in an effort to swipe some of the precious Chucklocules still clinging to it. She did not succeed.

After that, the rest of the night could have consisted of Chuck clipping his toenails in front of us and I would have been satisfied. He did not clip his toenails, however. He came out on stage and spoke for awhile, noting to us, as an aside, that he had used some particularly foul language in a church and was planning on using much, much more. He read us a brand-new, not-yet-published story. He had contests where people raced to blow up giant, inflatable Academy Awards in a desperate effort to win–of all things–giant inflatable turkeys. And he answered questions from the audience.

If you were lucky enough to get your question answered, you also got an inflatable turkey.

It was lots of fun and, to be honest, I was jealous. I love the book events that I have done, but I have never had a chance to make people get brain hemorrhages racing to inflate things in an effort to win more things to inflate.

Maybe after my next book.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cell Phones and Tasty Sandwiches

I've returned safely from the snowy reaches of the great white north and have been doing even more traveling around.
Monday, I was in the delightfully named Center Sandwich with Duncan McDougal, the big cheese in charge of the Children's Literacy Foundation. I have been working with CLiF for several years, visiting schools that typically could not afford to bring in an author without CLiF's generous help.

CLiF also sponsors rural libraries, awarding grants of $2,000 for the librarians to pick out whatever books they want for their libraries. The book donations are made at a big ceremony at the local public school to try to encourage the schools and libraries to find ways to help each other support literacy in the community.

I watched Duncan work his magic and hold a large group of kids spellbound as he told them about the wonders of reading and got them very excited about the books their library was receiving. I'll be doing the presentations at a school at the end of the month. I only hope I do half as well as Duncan did.

Tuesday, I went back up north, this time to get terribly, terribly lost on my way to the Holderness Central School. I had actually driven through Holderness on Monday, so I figured I was all set with the directions and made much of the drive with my eyes closed, just to show off.

I got my directions from Google Maps. (No, I don't have a GPS. I don't have a cell phone, either. While we're at it, I still don't have a Facebook page or a working TV. You have to cope with this. Not me. I'm perfectly content.)

The directions would have been perfect had my destination been the Ashland Central School. I was looking for the Holderness Central School, however. Undaunted, I drove on thinking, "Hey, I was just here yesterday. I'm pretty sure I saw this school on my drive,"

It turns out, I had not seen that school on my drive. After driving farther and farther from anything that looked like a school, I began to get a bit panicky. When I saw the sign that said Welcome to Mexico, I stopped a very helpful guy on a mountain bike and asked him for directions. His response, "Whooo, boy. You're REALLY lost" did surprisingly little to calm my nerves.

This is the point of the story where my friends all jump in and say, "See? If you had a cell phone, you could have called the school." This is true. But here is the amazing part - I was still able to call the school. I found an old fashioned device called a pay phone. It is a slightly more sophisticated means of communication than smoke signals or carrier pigeons, which I am thinking about employing in the future.

Through the delicate art of excessive, reckless speeding, I arrived at the school in time to start my first presentation right on schedule.

It was a delightful day in Holderness. The kids and teachers were loads of fun. They even did enough research about me to know that I would rather eat a plateful of toenails than the average school lunch. So, rather than Sloppy Joes and Tater Tots, I was treated to a gourmet lunch of tasty sandwiches, excellent salads, and delicious desserts. I will be driving to Holderness for lunch every day from now on, and, though the lunch was exceptional, I do expect there to be a larger wine list offered in the future.

They were celebrating Literacy Week (which is way more fun than Advanced Concepts in Math Week) and many of the classes had decorated their doors with pictures from favorite books. I was flattered to see that several classes had chosen my books. There was a three dimensional desk from The Messiest Desk (complete with three - count 'em, three! pairs of undies). There was a complete rewrite of Twelve Terrible Things, changing it to Twelve Terrific Things. It was very funny and clever, though I'm not sure I approve of all the happiness it portrayed. There were lots and lots of new rules for The Rules, and some great artwork and ideas from my other books, as well.

Most frightening of all was a giant, bigger than life picture of Auntie Lulu from my website covering the entire doorway to the library. I almost wet my pants laughing when I saw it.

Please take a moment to notice the last picture. The one of the kid in the red shirt. It's a new rule: Put the toilet seat down. The artist in this case took the time to make the water yellow and dotted with little McNuggets of poop. That's the sort of attention to detail that separates good art from great art. Nice work!!

It's always very flattering to be made to feel so welcomed in a school. At a school like the one in Holderness, I will be walking down the hall and will hear whispers of "Hey! That's Martykelley!"

It's always one word. Martykelley. Like Cher or something. When I walk through the halls I hear "Hi Martykelley. Hi Martykelley. Hi Martykelley. Hi Martykelley. Hi Martykelley."
And the occasional "Hey! Look! Martykelley is going into the bathroom."

I'll try to remember to put the seat down when I'm finished...