Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jefferson School Rocking Again

From Jefferson School in San Francisco, I received in the mail an envelope full of grandmothers, skeletons, witches, cats, sisters made of sand, moon balls, you name it. Wow!

I have been presenting at Jefferson School’s Author’s Day for a few years now, and every time they have surprises for all of us, authors participating. For instance, last year the children painted plastic chairs inspired in the color, elements, and images of every author’s books. Mine was “skeletonically” stunning!
This year the children sent me, straight from their classroom, a great menagerie of images inspired in my books.

And so, here, seen through the art of the Jefferson School children, are some of the best moments from Just a Minute:

Here notice the many looks of charming Señor Calavera:

Sand Sister inspired these storytelling drawings:

Next, from ghastly Los Gatos Black on Halloween, the witches!

The pumpkins, cats and zombies!

Oh, the skeletons!

Look out for the haunted house, the mummy, but mostly the vampire!

And of course, here is Little Night and her Mother Sky. Beautiful.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seven Impossible Corazonadas Before breakfast

I am inspired this morning. Not only the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog is featuring some never-before- seen images of my upcoming book Just in Case: A trickster Tale and Alphabet book, a sequel of Just a Minute, but they also got me thinking about my Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the last week (whether book related or not) that happened to me.
So, in honor of 7-imp, here are my 7 Kicks:

1. At my writer’s group, the Revisionaries, we toasted with champagne for Maria’s new illustration assignment with Philomel.

2. I laughed, I cried, I jumped on my chair and cheered while I fell in love with the writing of Mr. Sherman Alexis as I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. Wow!

3. I made a second video.

4. My son started working, really working, waking up early to go and rake leaves, dig holes, carry piles of mulch while growing calluses in his hands—the same hands with what he counts the money he needs to buy himself his first camera. Not such a little guy anymore.

5. I received an email from a five-year old reader who tells me he would take an airplane if necessary to come to one of my readings. In his email this week he let me know his family will be driving him to my December reading at Clayton Books.

6. My husband Tim and I had our birthday party organized by my friend Rose. The enchiladas in green sauce were supreme! Our friends were too.

7. My snowflake was auctioned at Robert’s Snow. I got many emails from people who loved the work.

7-imp, thank you for the inspiration.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Auction 1, live now

Three more days to go for Auction 1 of Robert’s Snow: For Cancer’s Cure fundraising, where my piece Little Night: See Me Shine is open for bidding.

And, while people are doing the rounds among the snowflakes, here are a few more images from my desk.

My snowflake is made from clay,
kneaded, pinched, shaped, sculptured over wire,
and then baked hard. A child.
Felt, poked in and out with a sharp needle, made the hair.
The softest of yarn
crocheted like my mama taught me when I was five,
To make a snowy hat.

A snowflake!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pingo’s first pair of skates

Pingo (little devil in Spanish) was my 2005 snowflake—the first year I participated in Robert’s Snow fundraising.
Here is a sequence of the making of the piece.

First I built the armature with wire.

Here is my snowflake ready to be painted.

I built the basic shapes of my little devil over the armature

Pingo was made from colored Sculpey and I did almost not painting at all over the figure.

I sewed the little underwear from a knitted shirt, and the blades for the skates I shaped from the thinnest wire.

Robert’s Snow: For Cancer’s Cure starts today at 9:00am. My 2007 snowflake, Little Night: See Me Shine, a music box, will be now available for bidding and until the November 23.

So, go see and fall in love with the snowflakes!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Shine is in the eye of the beholder

For the second time my artwork is part of Robert’s Snow: for Cancer Cure, a distinctive fundraiser consist of online auctioning more than 200 original pieces of art created on wooden snowflakes.
I received my wooden snowflake in the mail over the summer, right at the time I was finishing illustrations for a book and before my annual trip to visit my family in Mexico. But at last, late in August I was able to work in my snowflake.
I had been looking forward to the work, for I had a specific idea for this year. I was going to use one of my book characters as inspiration, Little Night, a book I painted while learning about the fierce fight for life of two Mexican families, the Varilla Cruz Family, and Asuncion’s’ family, whose mothers and one of the children were dealing with cancer and poverty.
The other part of my idea was that I wanted to create a music box—something new for me, but that I have seen before in the work of some of my artist friends.

At last the auction will begin this Monday, and as Little Night: See Me Shine, a music box, is about to be available for bidding, it came to my attention that the description posted by the Danna- Farber foundation has led to confusion about what my snowflake is and does. Here is the question that has prompted: Does Little Night: See Me Shine glow in the dark?

It does not. My snowflake is a music box. You twist the base of piece, and it cranks the mechanism that begins a broken tune. While the tune plays, the figure of the babe standing atop of the box turns around. The music was originally a popular Christmas song, but I altered the tune by taking apart the mechanism and breaking some teeth of the steel comb.
To give a further insight of how I make my snowflake, I put together this video that I created with the help of my artist fiends. My husband and son were the photographers, my friend Miguel Martinez created the music, and another friend of my provided the recording of the music box sounds.

And so why call it “See me Shine” if it does not shine?
I would say that the shine is in the eye of the beholder. My snowflake is a wish. A wish I have from my own child, my beloved son, as well for the Varilla Cruz children and Asuncion’s kids, which are five and have nobody else in the world but their mother. My wish for all of them is that they shine.
When I showed my writer’s group my snowflake and we discussed the name of my piece, one of them, my friend Jim, sent me this writing by Marianne Williamson, which tells it all so right:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

And so here is my wish for everybody: Shine.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

First dust of snow in Illinois

I was there in Illinois wearing my sandals and no sleeves a few days ago, right before my birthday. Coming from visiting Tucson, I had forgotten about the weather difference, and I found myself completely unprepared for the cold. Yet the kids and the teachers at Lakewood School and Hampshire High school made my visit a warm event.

Ands so, here are some of the things I saw in Illinois:
From Lakewood School, six grade creations! Notice the inclusion of iconic skeletons in some of their drawings, an homage to Sr, Calavera.

Some questions kids in Illinois wanted to ask but didn’t have a chance (these question I got from letters that Mr. Avila’s Class wrote, most of them were written in Spanish, so I am doing my best at translating):

Kid’s Question: Where in Mexico do you come from?
Yuyi’s Answer: From Xalapa, the Flowered City, in the hot state of Veracruz.

K.Q.: How old were you when you came to the USA?
Y.A.: 25

K.Q.: Did you have papers to cross the border or did you come as a mojada, a wetback?
Y.A.: When I crossed the border, I did it with what is called a Fiancé Visa, which meant I was allowed to come into the USA to marry the man I loved, who was a USA citizen. So, I didn’t get here as a mojada, instead I carried my baby walking through a hot concrete bridged that linked Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, with El Paso, Texas, where the immigration office reviewed my visa and finally let me in. Being Mexican, a new mother, and 25, I wasn’t granted a regular tourist visa, which was all I really wanted.

K.Q.: How long does it take to write a story?
Y.A.: some books I write fast; my book Just A Minute took me less than a week. Other stories I am still writing and are taking me years!

K.Q.: Where do you live?
Y.A.: Near San Francisco, California, in a place named Pleasant Hill, and it really is a Monte Placentero!

K.Q.: Did you create Señor Tlalocan?
Y.A.: Señor Tlalocan is another name for the Aztec God Tlaloc, the maker of rain, lighting and thunder. Tlaloc lived in a lush paradise called the Tlalocan, a place where everything grew. My Señor Tlalocan is just a Yuyi-version of this deity.
Click here to get a template that can be printed and cut to make a Señor Tlalocan that moves his arms and legs. For you!

K.Q.: How old were you when you got interested in writing for children?
Y.A.: I was 26, I had just gotten to the USA and fell in love with children’s books in the public library. I wanted to write and illustrate my own. I had a lot of learning to do.

K.Q.: Are you married?
Y.A.: I am married to Tim, a tall and skinny gringo whom I love with all my Spanish.

K.Q.: Did you go to the University?
Y.A.: I graduated from P.E school and from Psychology, both at the Universidad Veracruzana in my country.

K.Q.: How many children do you have?
Y.A.: One, he is a 13-year-old skyscraper.

K.Q.: Are you impressed with what you have accomplished?
¿Esta admirada de usted misma?

Y.A.: I am feliz with myself and what I do! It makes me happy to be able to create and share my work. When I was growing up, I never though of myself as an artist, but I wished I could be one. Now, I am impressed of how much can be accomplished if ones sets to work for it.

K.Q.: What is your real name?
Y.A.: You can hear me talk about my real name by going to this link and clicking on the red rectangle where it says “Listen Now”

K.Q.: Why don’t you make a book about Cantinflas?
Y.A.: what a great idea!

K.Q.: Can you give me a drawing of Cantinflas?
Y.A.: Here is one. This is from the sketch I made for one of the illustration of Los Gatos Black on Halloween:

K.Q.: What county you like best USA or Mexico?
Y.A.: Mexico is my Corazon, my heart; it makes palpitate the energy that runs inside me. The United States is the place where, with work and dedication, I am being able to follow my dreams. They are very different to me, and I love them both.

Mr. Avila Question: Do you think that your art is influenced by the art of the Muralist Diego Rivera?
Y.A.: I am sure my art is influenced by Diego Rivera’s art, because my work is the result of all the things that are part of my growing up, my memories, and the images I love, including those saw in my text books at school, in the movies my parents took me to see, and in magazines and books. Diego Rivera is one of my favorite artists, but I also admired another muralist whose work I saw in my text book at school. His name is Jorge Gonzales Camarena

Things I heard in Illinois (at Lakewood):
Take me with you!

And, to finish, how I look like to some of the children in Illinois (this one is from Karla and additional art by Rocio):

What a great day in Illinois!

Late Happy Birthday, Dakwane the artist!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tucson and the USBBY conference

Things that happened in Tucson:
I felt in love with a saguaro. It stood tall and valiant, enduring the fiery sun without complain. When I saw it for the first time my heart was taken.
I was a USBBY opener speaker. Afterwards I was declared a skin shedder, like the Tucson lizards and snakes.
On the first night dessert was cinnamon chocolate nachos

Things I heard in Tucson:
“No one wants to be wounded by story. People want to be healed by story."
"You cannot blame people and expect them to help you."
“The job of an artist is to take poison and turn it into medicine.”

“Every voice matters. Every voice has a right to speak. Of course, we don’t have to listen.”
-Monty Roessel

"How do you become and artist? The secret is finding your own place and making it sacred.”
-Shonto Begay

"Writing is not about the big things, but about the small things.”
“We are imperfect beings moving towards perfection.”
“Writing is about vision. It is about seeing things.”
“I am a barbarian. I am a savage!”
-David Almond

Things I saw in Tucson:
Liborio, tattooed skin, big shoulders small legs, unshaved face, jumping into the ocean waters as shown in the picture book Un Hombre De Mar written by Rodolfo Castro, illustrated by Manuel Monroy, an IBBY Honour Book. A most poetic sight.
The story in Spanish reads something like this: “Liborio has sea water inside his veins. Waters from the seven legendary seas. With little fish and everything, with vastness, shipwrecks, tides, and swells.”
And here is Liborio on the cover of his book, a man who doesn’t want to be good or bad, but only be like the sea.

Ah, Liborio, I think he could be my uncle.