Friday, December 14, 2012


Man, I felt like such a lucky arts blogger this week when Bright Lyons Co-Owner Paul Bright offered to take me to the shop's basement to see his private and incredible collection of zines.

About a month ago, I was originally drawn into Bright Lyons, a "modern design, art, and curiosity shop," by the sight of a great Alexander Girard tapestry hanging from the ceiling.  During that original visit, Paul pointed me to an incredible and gigantic book about Girard's work.  I instantly fell in love with this visual journal of Girard's  life and art, and came back to the store again this week to take another look at it.

Turns out that Paul and his business partner Mandy Bright  possess the largest private collection of Girard's artwork and also serve as the top dealer in vintage Girard design. Impressive!

I plan on popping into Bright Lyons when I need my Girard fix.  Thanks, Paul and Mandy, for providing some Girardian inspiration!

Monday, December 10, 2012


Want a chance to win a free copy of Melissa's book?  Leave a comment on this post.  I'll be picking one commenter at random to receive Baby Penguins Everywhere!

Congratulations are in order for Melissa Guion, whose first children's picture book, Baby Penguins Everywhere!, hit the shelves on December 6.

I first met Melissa Guion at Book Court in Brooklyn.  We were both there to hear children's literature expert Leonard Marcus read from Listening for Madeleine, his new treatise of A Wrinkle in Time author Madeleine L'Engle.

In her friendly way, Melissa reached out to me and asked what my connection to children's literature was.  In the course of our chat, she shared the exciting news that her first children's book was soon to debut.

Over the course of coffee and bagels, I learned more about Melissa and her fascinating journey to becoming a first-time book author and illustrator.

Melissa started our chat with a surprising fact: She used to be a hedge fund manager.  "People's eyes sometimes glaze over when I share that info," said Melissa, explaining that it's a big mental leap to process a move in between such different lines of work. 

In truth, Melissa has been writing and making art all her life.  Her work history reveals her ongoing dedication to the arts.  She has been a photographer and a member of an improvisational theater company.

So what exactly accounts for the move from hedge fund VP to children's book author/illustrator?

"All along, I was making art for myself, my friends, and my friends' children," shares Melissa. "At some point, a friend who was a former literary agent asked me 'Have you thought of doing children's books?"

Melissa got busy building a body of artwork and creating a website to make it public.  Her friend sent a link to Melissa's website to an agent at Writers House. The agent phoned Melissa and expressed great interest in her work. He suggested she try to come up with a story, then turn it into a rough 32-page picture book dummy. Melissa found it difficult to make progress on the task at hand after giving birth to her daughter, but eventually renting a studio space up the street made it easier to focus, as did receiving a modest art grant. 

Melissa's agent began making introductions between Melissa and folks in the world of children's book publishing. It was a promotional mailing initiated by her agent that got her art noticed by a wider audience.

"I had worked hard in isolation for a lot of years, so it was good for me to have this promotional postcard be so well-received," Melissa revealed.

It took a bit of time for Melissa to complete Baby Penguins Everywhere, but she did it!  And now Melissa is painting the town red as she visits different bookstores to do readings. 

My personal takeaway from Melissa's story?  It's never too late to go after a creative dream.  

I wish Melissa much success in her continued work in the world of children's literature!

Click HERE to find a listing of dates and places where Melissa will be reading her new book!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


What's not to love about Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Mariah, and young people singing (love the knit monkey hat!) This video is an instant spirit-booster.

Monday, December 03, 2012


Some of the holiday cards I've sent over the years
Sure, people love to give and get gifts this time of year.  But to me, nothing beats getting a bunch of fun holiday cards in the mail and then putting them up to look at each day.  Part of the reason I'm impartial to "real" paper-based correspondence is that I love everything related to mail  - stamps, cards, stationary, stickers, the whole nine yards.  When I was little, I would walk to the local Hallmark store and spend hours looking at cards, calendars, stickers  and scrapbooks.  I was (and still am!) in love with those tiny, free calendars they give out which list things like holidays; birthstones (I hated that mine was topaz; I wanted diamond or ruby!); birth flowers; modern and traditional gifts for wedding anniversaries. 

It's not really surprising that I love all this stuff.  I grew up in a family that prized hand-written letters.  This group included my grandma, who regularly wrote letters to me and included magazine and newspaper articles about things I was interested in.  At holiday time, my nuclear family members (mom, dad, brother, me) each wrote each other a blessing - a hand-written expression of what we appreciated about one another and what we wished for each other in the year ahead.  We started that tradition when my brother was five and struggled to form his letters.  I still have that blessing and  almost all the blessings we ever exchanged over a 20-plus year period.

When I was growing up, my dad, then a children's dentist, would send out holiday cards to at least 300 people - colleagues, patients ,family friends, etc.    The cool thing is that he would pay me a little something to hand address and put stamps on each letter.  The amazing this is that he wrote personal notes to each and every one of these people.

Thirteen years ago, I started my own holiday time tradition by sending cards accompanied by a typed letter with highlights from the year.  A few years into this ritual, I began to alphabetize the list.

Does this tradition take time?  Yes, it does!  All said and done, I invest about 15 hours.  It helps to start early, break it down into 1- or 2-hour time slots, and do some of it while listening to holiday music or having fun tv shows on in the background.

Like any other tradition that involves an investment, there's a pretty generous return on the investment.

Here's some good things that come out of it:

1.  It's so awesome having an excuse to go into a bunch of stationery and paper good stores:  I'm looking for a really festive card to send out to a bunch of folks!  Then there's the pleasure of selecting a festive stamp from USPS, ordering a great return address label, and finding a fun sticker to put on the envelopes.

2.  Making the list of highlights from the year gives me the chance to go all the way back to January and think about all the good things that happened, all the interesting things I got to do, and life's simple pleasures that I've enjoyed.  Often, I go back and read blog entries from the year to get ideas.

3.  Sending out cards reminds me of all the good people in my life.

4.  People send cards back!

5.  A bunch of folks have borrowed this idea and started writing their own list of highlights from the year.

6.  I know that people look forward to receiving this letter.  One of my friends told me that she saved the one I sent to her last year.

To summarize:  Gifts are great, but nothing beats the gift of the written word.  The investment of time is well-worth the opportunity to connect with good memories and express thanks for the positive  things that happened over the course of the year.