Monday, May 30, 2011

60 years ago yesterday...

...I was born.

When I arrived my head was all lopsided.
All my life, I've been told that my mother's first words when she saw me were:
"Why is his head shaped like a lima bean?"

I heard this story (often) as I was growing up.
Was I given my totem upon my day of birth?
Sometimes it sure seems like it.

A few years ago, I asked my mom to document it.
It's the drawing above.
I open my solo presentations "The Leguminous Life & Times of Larry Marder" with it.
Then it dissolves into the illo below.

I want to thank all my friends, relatives, colleagues, and fans who took the time to wish me a "Happy Birthday" yesterday.

Cory & I had a great "get-away"weekend and all of your well wishes made it even better.

With great love and fondness to you all,
(Plus a Hoo-Hoo-HA & a Hoka-Hoka-HEY for good luck!)
Your ol' pal,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Of canary birds and lightbulbs

Not too long ago, I received an email from Dirk Schwieger in Germany. Dirk is a very longtime fan and friend of Beanworld. On his own, with a nod from me, he brokered a deal between Dark Horse & Ventil Verlag for a German language edition of Beanworld--or should I say Bohenwelt?
Ventil Verlag is small but cutting edge German publisher that focuses on pop theory, cultural studies & societal analysis.

As Dirk said when he first approached me:

"ventil has a soft spot for subcultures, they have read beanworld and have come to love it, and they are willing to spend their time and money for bringing it to german-speaking audiences (and into german, swiss and austrian book shops).

i have found a very helpful partner in crime in daniela seel of kookbooks, another german publisher specializing in cutting edge poetry, fiction and children's books. daniela is a respected poet, translator and editor, and she does an amazing job at bringing the sounds and metrics of the german version in line with the original.

So recently Dirk wrote:

"translation is finally completed but the 'canary bird' really broke my neck: on her first meeting with beanish, dreamishness talks about having heard "the canary bird laugh". i've gone through some lengths to investigate some kind of meaning into this, yet couldn't find anything but the possible allusion to a very high-pitched voice. is there some other kind of reference or motif i should know about?

My response was:
About the canary bird laugh.
It's something my Grandmother always ended every story with.
Instead of saying "And they lived happily ever after" she would end each tale with "And the canary bird laughed

If you want to see the entire artifact: go here.

If you notice I dedicated TOTB #1 to her because she taught me how to "hear the canary bird laugh." So it's a happy chirpy, tweety, springtime song bird sound. A bit of private joke with my family.

These folks are my mother's parents: Larry & Laberda Post. For a while as a pre-schooler we lived with them and they were both very important people in my life. My grandfather , Larry, was in the printing business. He was a really great guy. He died when I was 11 and so I remember him a lot better than my sister or any of my cousins.

My grandmother pretty much got to see all her grandchildren grow into young adults.

Laberda (or Gran'ma Berda as I called her 'cuz I couldn't say her name when I was little) was a genuine character. She said and did the funniest things. Family gatherings can often become "Let's tell stories about Laberda" events. In my father's last days I reduced my mother to tears of laughter by repeating something her mother had always said.

It was a nonsense word.

My grandmother excelled at nonsense words and phrases.

She told stories about meeting the The Kitty & The Horsie and The Giant.

When she said "And the Canary Bird laughed" it meant "Story's over. Time for bed."

My love of storytelling comes from all over the place but I've placed the honor of my first and most important influence at the feet of my Gran'ma Berda.

Now I'm not the only professional storyteller amongst Laberda's grandchildren. My cousin, Janet Nolan (here with me above) writes children's books.

Picture books she calls them.

We're not just related.
We're great friends.

I'll let her intoduce herself to you:

If I found a bumper sticker that said “I break for good stories,” I would put it on my car. I love a good story I always have, and I’m not the least pick picky about what format the story comes in: television, movie, theater, or a song.

Though my favorite stories have always been in books. I consider a good book my ticket to travel – to a different time, place or reality. I love that books have the power to scare me, thrill me, make me laugh, and make me cry. And when I find that one book that educates me, challenges me, or opens me up to a new way of thinking, I believe I’ve found a gift.

My childhood was filled with gifts: The Boxcar Children, All-of-a-Kind Family, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and the Outsiders, which I have probably read ten times. Books were my foundation; they were my vitamins, my nutritious foods, and they exercised my brain in a way a classroom never could.

I started writing picture books about ten years ago. I wrote one story after another. Some were good, and some were not so good. It didn’t matter because I considered my early attempts at writing the artistic equivalent of singing in the shower, harmless but fun. But like anything, if you work hard at it, you usually improve.

My first book, The St. Patrick’s Day Shillelagh, came out a while ago. It tells the story of a boy who leaves Ireland during the Potato Famine and sails to America. On his way across the ocean, the boy whittles a branch from a black thorn tree into a shillelagh, which is a walking stick or cane. The shillelagh is passed down through the generations and its story told on St. Patrick’s Day of every year.

My second book, A Father’s Day Thank You, is a happy story about a little bear that does not know what to get his wonderful Papa Bear for Father’s Day. The little bear figures it out when he realizes the true meaning of saying “Thank you.”

My most recent The Firehouse Light tells the true story of a four-watt lightbulb that has been burning in Livermore, California since 1901. I was intrigued when I first heard about this amazing light blub.

I wondered how it was possible, when almost nothing seems to last, that a lightbulb never burned out. For days, I walked around thinking wow. While that lightbulb’s been burning, cars, telephones, televisions and computers were invented.

Cures for diseases were discovered, wars were fought, and roads, highways, and cities were built. And while so much has changed culturally, socially, and technologically, and economically in American society, a tiny four-watt bulb made of carbon filament and hand-blown glass kept burning. Who couldn’t be intrigued by that?

I just had to know more. One of the wonderful things about being a children’s writer is that I have the perfect excuse to pick-up the phone, call a stranger, and say, “I wonder if you have a moment to talk.”

I was lucky to find so many helpful individuals on the other end of the line. Through the amazing generosity of local historians, retired firefighters, and members of the Livermore Heritage Guild, who answered my endless questions, I was able to learn the lightbulb’s story. The book is beautifully illustrated by artist Marie LaFrance .The Firehouse Light was selected for The Society of Illustrator’s “Original Art” Exhibit.

The 110 year anniversary/birthday party for the bulb is this coming June. I'll be in San Francisco for the event.

This past weekend, my sister Kathy and I travelled to Shelby, Ohio, birthplace of the lightbulb, previous home of the Shelby Electric Company, and current home of the Shelby Museum of History, which has the most fascinating collection of historical memorabilia I've ever seen crammed into a tiny space.

We met up with filmmaker Chris Leps, who is doing a documentary on the lightbulb. Chris interviewed me for his movie Century of Light, which can be previewed at I can't believe I'm going to be on the silver screen! After the film premiers during the B-Day weekend, Chris says he will be showing it at independent film festivals around the country. Cool!

So here are some details for the big birthday weekend. On Friday June 17th, Chris's movie will be shown in Livermore, CA, at the Vine Theater.

Tickets will be limited.

Saturday June 18th is the official birthday party, noon to 4:00 in the parking lot of firehouse #6 in Livermore (I think). I know there will be bands, balloons, food, speeches, press coverage, and a book signing by yours truly. It's no charge and all are welcome.

If you love storybooks, kid lit, history and live anywhere near the Bay area, you might want to see what's going on in Livermore in a few weeks.

You can meet my cousin, Janet Nolan.

You can even try to get her to tell you a few good Laberda Post stories.

Well, that's it for today.

I know this because I just heard the canary bird laugh.