Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Camping in November

As you may or may not recall, in the spirit of extending summer into late fall, we went rafting the weekend before Halloween. How to top that?

Camping the weekend before Thanksgiving.

We found a website called Tentrr.com, which lists about a dozen privately-owned single campsites, each outfitted with a standard-issue canvas tent with wood-burning stove and elevated air mattress.

I strongly suspect we were the last campers of 2017.

1. It was c-c-c-cold.

2. We brought Bailey, who loved it.

3. We ate BBQ takeout, then cooked marshmallows (Bailey ate three) and drank hot cocoa under a starry sky.

4. I woke up at 4am to take Bailey out and discovered that our entire campsite was covered in a thin layer of snow. And the stars were even more amazing.

5. It was toasty inside the tent as long as there was wood in the stove and a dog on the bed.

6. It was a perfect crazy November summer adventure. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

And in lighter news...

Samuel came home unexpectedly last night. Everything is fine. We all stayed up late, slept late, and had bagels at Orwasher's. A wave of calmness sweeps over me whenever both boys are here.

This afternoon Samuel and Bailey helped me remove the dead flowers from our window boxes. (Full disclosure: Bailey was just there for the photo op.)

This planting lasted from July to mid-November. This is what our building looked like for the past five months...best building on the block.

The window boxes were my idea, and if I knew anything about gardening I'd save the co-op some money and do the plantings myself. But all I know is that buildings look better with flowers. So my participation is limited to pulling out the dead stuff.

BTW...is he a sweet boy or what?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Let's say it's not about me

I don't want to talk about me. Or my problems, or my possibilities. Let's just talk about love in the universal sense, the fact that we all want love, need love, feel devastated when we lose love, feel euphoric when we discover love or what could become love. Let's talk about it in the universal sense. 

Let's talk about two people who loved each other for many, many years, perhaps one more dearly than the other--who knows, who can say anymore, it's all a confusing jumble now. He called her Sweetheart for all those years, they shared intimacies and I love yous, and now she's sitting several feet away from him and she's a complete stranger, and it's a cold, unfathomable feeling of emptiness and confusion and he just wants to go somewhere and cry, let it out in the absence of anyone else looking at him and judging him.

Let's talk about what it feels like to meet someone, someone who makes him feel like he's not alone, not going to die alone, someone kind and funny and smart, with needs and wants and hopes and fears of her own--her own unfinished life story. How amazing it is to connect and gaze and smile and laugh. And wonder, what if?

Life is long, if we're lucky, and strange and wonderful and occasionally devastating. I don't know what the future holds. I don't have a clear plan anymore. I know that I will die someday, but what happens between now and then is much murkier than it once was. It's like the hours after a hurricane, when everything is lost, and suddenly someone reaches out a hand and grabs yours, and either you're both found or you're both lost, but either way you realize how important it is to be kind to each other, because everything will be different from here on out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book update

Everyone says it's easy to write a picture book.

It is. It's extremely easy.

It's just hard to write a good picture book. And editors don't want good picture books. They want great picture books. They only publish a handful a year. They want a book that people are going to buy instead of all the other great picture books on the shelf.

And the competition isn't just Elephant and Piggie (which is tough enough). It's Cat in the Hat and Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are.

If you're feeling confident, walk into any children's book store and see how many books there are. Why would anyone other than your mother choose your book over all the others?

You have to set out to write great picture books. Plural, because most aren't going to sell no matter what.

If you're lucky, and you've been published multiple times, and you send out what you know to be an absolutely phenomenal manuscript, you'll get feedback like this:

"Todd's verse is (as usual) basically flawless, and very sweet--but I'm afraid the story just isn't standing out quite enough in the end."

I say lucky, because getting a compliment from an editor gives you enough positive momentum to move on to the next one. And the next one. And eventually you may sell one, and...

Hey, it's easy to write a picture book.

Okay. That wasn't meant to be a downer, just a reality check. In order to be a children's author you have to have a soft heart and a thick skin.

I have publication dates for upcoming books:

  • November 30, 2017: Chinese-language version of Ten Tiny Toes. (Seriously.)
  • March 28, 2018: Board book version of Ten Tiny Toes. (Can't wait.)
  • August 2018: How to Become a Knight. (Looking great.)
  • September 2018: Three Grumpy Trucks. (Looking great.)
I'm not allowed to share artwork yet, but here's an early sample from Three Grumpy Trucks that I already shared at a public reading, so I don't think I'll be killed for it:

Finally, I have a new manuscript under consideration with a publisher. We're not going to jinx it by talking about it yet. But we're hopeful, right? We know how easy it is to write a picture book.

Back to work :)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

She's got those brown eyes

And that smile.

And that lilting chuckle, that tiny laugh, that hmmpph.

She's got that neck made of velvet.

Those Mona Lisa lips.

If you could write the story, you'd write it with brown eyes. Of course you would. Soulful and deep, like autumn, like earth, like a mystery waiting to unfold.

Monday, November 6, 2017


She was 14 and her health had been declining since the beginning of the year. But she lived a good life and was happy until the end. She had so much fun on Halloween that she was rolling on the living room rug like a puppy. 

On Thursday I took her and Bailey for a long walk to the Turtle Pond in Central Park. She walked all the way and enjoyed herself.

Of course it makes you second-guess yourself--should we have waited another week? Another two? But I felt she was starting to suffer, and I didn't want that. Having a few good days at the end was perfect. 

She was a very good dog.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NYC Strong

"NYC Strong" balloons across Amsterdam Avenue at 80th Street, a couple of blocks from my apartment. 

All the neighborhood toddlers were gawking and pointing, not understanding the significance, just excited to see balloons. A little unexpected joy is good for the soul.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Not sure how to juxtapose Halloween with a terrorist attack.

Ethan's school is four blocks away from where it started, but he was heading toward home in the other direction at the time. I was on 91st Street buying Halloween supplies.

I think most people in the city probably checked their phones a few times during the evening, but for the most part we were busy with our own families and weren't going to let it ruin the night.

Ethan came home to check in, then went out with friends.

There was a party in the building lobby. We had some trick-or-treaters.

Bailey apparently snuck out of the apartment during one candy exchange at the door and proceeded to poop on the lobby floor in the middle of the party. No shame.

We have a great building, great neighbors, a great neighborhood and a great city.

Bad shit happens. It sucks. All you can do is get on with your life and be grateful. I am and I am.