December 29, 2016

Finally, a new blog post. You might have noticed that the last post dated October 24, 2016, just appeared as well. That is because it was somewhere within the website but I did not know how to get it up front. Now with the help of my friend Serenity, I can finally post items again – and learn how to do this myself. Maybe. The photo on the blog page is of Annapurna in the Himalayas seen from Ghorepani 2015.

So, where am I now and what are my hopes for the coming year? For one thing, I am holed up for the winter in a lovely little apartment in Bellows Falls, VT, overlooking the Connecticut River valley, a dam, a canal, and a railroad switch yard. I have my art material out and am working on things on my table which looks out over that view. The trains are so cool. Beyond the yard and train station is a big hill.

What things am I working on? Firstly, I am continuing to build up outreach for my book (Tiger, for short) as a start. That involves reaching out to book stores, schools, etc., with the help of my publisher but also through social media. It also means carrying a book or two around. I sold two in a local diner.

Secondly, I am working on two directions in a follow up to Tiger. Right now there are two possibilities. One is a follow up on what Anjali’s grandfather did when he was a young shaman. There is a story ready, plus preliminary sketches for “Grandfather.” The other is a follow up to what was suggested to me by the Wildlife Institute of India about another tiger conservation story. You read about the latter in my October blog. It is a long way off right now, since it is my hope to raise funding to return to India and Nepal in 2017 to work on that, like Tiger, right there on the spot.

Another direction I am taking right now in my little winter hermitage is appropriately to immerse myself in the Vermont landscape and work towards the publishing of the book on the mountain that I started back in 2009. This includes practicing both watercolor technique (the unforgiving medium) as well as figure studies. There will be a lot of studies of woods scenes as well. Then there will also be the refining of the story itself. That is 50% done. But it is really exciting to be doing this as long as I can keep at it. This story is akin to the theme taken up in the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. That book did not inspire the idea, but it falls within the same challenge of finding story lines about how we fit into our natural environment that can be made into a children’s book. In addition to the book itself, the artwork that comes out of my hermitage, plus other earlier work related to this and to Tiger, will be the focus of a show I am hoping to pull together for a local gallery here. Here is an older image along the theme of the mountain book. What you can probably not read behind the girl is about the birds she hears around her.


That show will be in May, so I had better keep my nose to the grind stone. One of the themes in the mountain book is thunder. Here is a snippet from the ongoing draft text. Sarah is the original model for the story’s heroine :

“Suddenly clouds pour in overhead, now light gray and white but there are darker rain clouds behind them as the wind picks up. Distant thunder echoes in the valley. It is getting darker. Big rain drops begin to fall with a sound on the leaves like ripples in a stream – a chorus, each drop its own little song, millions of them singing. A smell of wet leaves passes her nose. Raindrops hit her arms. Just as suddenly as it came, the rain stops and the forest is lit up by bright sunlight. A robin chirps nearby. A limb falls in the forest making a suspicious sound. Somewhere there must be a rainbow, but the trees block it. Sarah thinks that maybe she can climb a tree and see the rainbow.”


October 24, 2016

Why is it hot and dry? Two curious Nepali girls embark on a search for answers in a jungle near their home. Did Tiger take the rain?

Far away in Vermont, on a cool but colorful, sunny October 14 I picked up my first box of Did Tiger Take the Rain? – virtually on the doorsteps of Green Writers Press’ office and home near Brattleboro.

I took out a copy for myself right there and held it to my heart. I thought of the trips, the hard work, the sad times and the joy – of days in a jeep, the villages and the wonderful people I met there and those at home who supported, advised, and believed as I put my book together. And now the book is out there. I hope it will be an accessible tool for beginning a conversation on climate change which is equally thought-provoking for children, parents, and teachers.

During the ongoing Brattleboro Literary Festival, I signed my first book: one dedicated to a granddaughter named Kathryn. Kathryn, may Tiger forever be your friend and may you and those of your generation understand Anjali’s message: “When the sun shines, it shines down on humans and tigers together.”

The official book launch was November 11, 2016, at Everyone’s Book Store in Brattleboro, VT. Great questions, and some wonderful kids who, like the adults, were pressed to find the three hidden tigers in the book. Here is a photo. It shows me, two of the kids, and fellow writer Jaimie Scanlon and illustrator Ellen Tumavicus along with their book Ralph Flies the Coop which has been published by Green Writers Press parallel to mine.


Please check out my Facebook page for more specific updates and events as they begin to take shape. By the way, on my Facebook page you will see the following image:

Version 2

This is a pen and ink drawing that shows Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book as best as I could render him based on Kipling’s original concept. It is akin to the fantastic images drawn by Robert Ingpen in his illustrations for an edition of that book. Kipling spent some time in India and collected material from an area in Madhya Pradesh through which the Seeonee River flowed. He used that information to model the setting for The Jungle Book. By coincidence, during a visit I made to the Wildlife Institute of India in 2015, I was asked if I would be interested in writing a follow up to Did Tiger Take the Rain? based on the re-introduction of tigers into the Panna Tiger Reserve. The Panna and Pench reserves abut the Seeonee region Kipling used as his backdrop for Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo and the Seeonee Wolf Pack in The Jungle Book. It is my dream to return to the Panna and Pench Reserves in India as a follow up to my book. And if the Mowgli story were not coincidence enough, Kipling actually wrote The Jungle Book in his then home near Brattleboro, Vermont  where Green Writers Press is located. Let’s hope that the tiger of my book is a modern, safer cousin of the ill-fated Shere Khan.

Welcome, readers!

Hello everyone, and welcome to something new – for me anyway. Now I have a new website and this is my first blog. It is also about (in part) my first book. After a sad year, I hope this is also a new beginning. Imagine that at my age! In fact, I have re-established my mission: in this the autumn of my life, to use my talents and capabilities to share my knowledge and concerns in the hope that I can make life on earth a better place.

If you have seen my bio, my mission goes way back to pathways I set for myself even in my twenties. It has seen me through the years in some way or another, and was behind my decision in 1999 to shift from academia to children’s book writing and illustrating. Agreed – it has been a slow process with many ups and downs, and time moves on and it seems like not a lot gets done. I don’t push out books like some famous authors. But I am beginning to feel the depth of joy when I can see my first book coming to fruition – and to feel how my mission enters my heart.

My first book Did Tiger Take the Rain? will be launched October 14 in Brattleboro, VT. That is where the publisher Green Writers Press is located. It is also the Brattleboro Book Festival, and, I might add, not far from where Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book many years ago.

Here is a little more context. While living in the town of Westford, VT (in a wonderful log house), I realized how great it could be to take the best experiences from my growing up in the woods, link them to a fantasy adventure, and write and illustrate a book that takes place for a child on the west flank of nearby Mt. Mansfield. That book has been in process since 2009! Now, it consist of numerous thoughts, vignettes, poems, diary entries, and sketches done while visiting the mountain as well as other forests, streams, or fields. It is a wonderful thing to be doing even if as a publication it may never happen. But it has helped me to do two things. One it has helped me to appreciate the intricacies of the Nature and Human interface. Secondly, it has been an inspiration to learn to form words (and images) around deep thoughts – thoughts that not only reflect the beauty of everything natural, but also come from deep in our hearts. There are several spin offs from this theme, of course. Let’s see what happens. I have included an illustration pen and ink sketch from it here.


The Tiger theme seems to be far away from this. As you can see in my bio, my background is anthropology and that might explain a lot. But there are important commonalities – and they make up the real challenge. How can we take an experience from a culture far away and formulate a story that can not only appeal to children everywhere, but also help them learn and appreciate in a common way? It is a story that is not meant to display another culture, or try to get American children, for example, to understand the lives of children in other places. Although it does this as an aside (can you find the water buffalo?), it is my hope that children everywhere can enter the bodies of Usha and Anjali as they set out on their adventures and learning experience.

This book is also part of a series of book ideas, one of which was provided for me by staff at the Wildlife Institute of India which I visited December 2015. It would also be about tigers but in a different way – still working this one out, but it is my hope to return to Nepal and India soon to follow up with it. And Mt. Mansfield? I will keep jotting down ideas and doing sketches – sort of like a reflection on what I see as important in my life growing up.

With this said, I would like to share some of the techniques I used to create the illustrations for Did Tiger Take the Rain? The relationship between feeling, thought, and idea written down in words and the image is an important one – whether jungle or mountain. It seems my approach to this is based on actually being there where these feelings burst into my heart.

The book Did Tiger Take the Rain? is based on two trips I made to western Nepal for the specific purpose of getting the material I needed for the book. I did not know beforehand what that material would be (other than knowing where I wanted to be and generally why). The book is also based on a number of studies of children in action and on watercolor techniques that have been part of my life here in the USA. With the help of several Nepali associates, I visited a number of old storytellers. From the stories I took the characters and the overall feeling – not the story. The story would be my own, but some of it was provided to me by the Tharu children. The images are all based on several thousand photos taken both of children, their homes, families, etc., in Nepal, and of child friends here who allowed me to take photos of them climbing trees, running, looking, talking, etc. The challenge was then to combine them into action figures in the book, which, in its turn was based on the usual story board sketch format. The final images were all done in watercolor. There is no “photoshopping “at all, other than in the final publication stages. First, a drawing was made at the same size as the finished watercolor (13 x 21). That was transferred to the watercolor paper (Arches 300 lb cold pressed), and painted in using mostly Winsor Newton and M Graham permanent paints. There is only one spot in the book which uses some white acrylic, otherwise the “white” is based on the challenging technique of transparent watercolors.

Here is a photo of a Tharu child plus a painting taken from that photo. Until next time – take care.