Posts Tagged ‘family’

January 20, 2021

It was Sunday, 6:30 P.M. Irving Zitkin, hamburger and cookie eater, sat at the dinner table staring at his vegetables, hoping they would disappear. Then he made a face; only for a second, but long enough for Mrs. Zitkin to see.

Violet Zitkin, mother, housewife and saint, frowned and sighed helplessly. “Darling,” she purred, “Please eat your vegetables. Don’t you want to grow strong, healthy and handsome like your father?” Harold Zitkin beamed from behind his newspaper.

She reminded Irving how lucky he was to have a mother who cared about what he ate. “How about eating just a little bit?” she persisted. “Vegetables are so-o- good for you!” Irving shook his head defiantly.

“That’s it!” Violet muttered between clamped teeth, “Harold!”

Harold Zitkin, father, local greengrocer and diplomat slowly lowered his Garden Variety Journal. He also loved his son but preferred peace at the dinner table. “Irving,” Harold offered reasonably, “How do you know you won’t like them unless you try?” The stubborn seven-year old looked to the ceiling for support.

“I mean, aren’t you even curious to know what they taste like?” his father went on. “Nope.” Irving pouted. “They look disgusting. My tongue might shrivel and fall off!”

“Well, son; vegetables are not there just to decorate your plate,” Harold said sternly, shaking a stringbean shaped finger at Irving. “So stop this funny business and eat your vegetables! NOW!”

Irving smirked and proceeded to push the vegetables around his plate. He arranged his peas, corn, diced carrots and broccoli so they spelled out his name.

“I’d really rather have another hamburger instead of these stupid vegetables,” Irving shrugged indifferently, still testing his mother’s patience. “Irving!” Violet Zitkin begged.“Please!” Suddenly, Irving decided he’d had enough nagging.

Jumping up, he shoved back his chair and headed for the garbage can, plate in hand. The Zitkins watched in shock as their son savagely dumped his vegetables into the trash, shouting, “That’s it! I’m never going to eat these yucky things for anybody again!” Tossing his plate (fortunately it was plastic) into the sink, he turned to face his parents with an innocent smile. “So what’s for dessert?” he cooed, eyeing the plate of chocolate chip cookies on the counter.

Quickly recovering their wits, the Zitkins glared at their son. “Dessert? We don’t THINK so, young man.” they grumbled in unison. Disappointed and still hungry, Irving stomped upstairs and slammed his door. It was going to be a long night.

Kicking his way through piles of books and toys, Irving plopped onto his bed. “Well, I’ll just sneak down to the kitchen later and snag some of those cookies,” he vowed, giving in to a loud yawn. Soon however, his eyelids slid to half-mast, sinking fast. He didn’t see the dim bulb above his head flicker nor did he feel his bed lurch gently from side to side as the walls of his room slowly faded away…

Awakened by soft breezes under a sunny green sky, Irving lay perfectly still and frowned, trying to figure out where he was. He reached a tentative hand towards the floor. It came up covered in some spicy, slimy stuff. “E-e-u-uw!” Irving gagged. Then he saw it. Out of the corner of his eye, a huge orange thing with green hair and strange root-like hands had sidled up to his bed. Terrified, Irving dived under his quilt. “Ma-a-a!” he wailed. No answer; just a dry, crunchy chuckle. “Good Morning, Irving Zitkin. said the huge orange thing. “We were wondering when you’d get here.”

“Here?” Irving squeaked, dropping his quilt. “Where is here? And what are you?”

“Why, you’ve arrived at the Garden of Eating, you silly boy! Welcome to the first course! “I am Corporal Carotte.” The orange thing introduced himself with a stiff bow. “Follow me, if you please!”

Suddenly Irving realized he was talking to a giant carrot! He shut his eyes, muttering, “This isn’t happening…”

“Oh, yes, it is,” asserted the Corporal cheerfully. “King Bountiful has been expecting you.”

Irving crawled out of his bed, stepping gingerly through the slimy salad dressing. “What does King Bountiful want with me?” he huffed, hurrying to keep up with his guide.

As they bounced through leafy green valleys, and waded through haystacks of shredded cheese., the Corporal sneered, “Well, my boy, it seems His Royal Vegginess is not thrilled with your treatment of his loyal subjects. You see, we VeggieBeasts pride ourselves on our roles in maintaining the health of you ‘carnivorous types’ and we don’t take kindly to being wasted!”

As they descended a hill of croutons, Irving gaped at the panorama ahead. Rolling, bouncing and slithering towards them were an army of giant vegetables! He saw retinues of radishes, bunches of brazen broccoli, swarms of sentient squash, and throngs of tumbling tomatoes. They seemed to come from everywhere! Then Irving noticed the enormous potato creature marching towards them on his fat, gnarled roots.

King Bountiful, dressed in robes of ridicchio and romaine lettuce was crowned with a cornucopia of tiny vegetables. As he marched, His Royal Vegginess pointed an ornate rhubarb scepter in Irving’s direction!

“Ah, here he comes now. It looks like he means to teach you a lesson!” said the Corporal with a sinister smile. “I’d mind my manners, if I were you.” The huge carrot bowed low until his fuzzy head greens swept the ground.

All at once, Irving understood. The King and his VeggieBeasts were going to get him for trashing his salad! They might even boil him in oil and vinegar! Desperately, young Zitkin tried to remember the way back to his bed as the ground began to shake! The VeggieBeasts were hot on his trail! With a frantic screech, Irving made a mad dash for anywhere but here! He’d better eat his vegetables before they ate him!

At that moment he found himself back in his bed. “Yow, what a dream!” Irving sighed with relief. Then he smelled something suspicious. Turning over, Irving faced a steaming plate of vegetables left on his nightstand by his loving mother. He stared at them in annoyance and considered trashing them for a second time that evening.

Suddenly he heard someone shuffling up the steps to his room. “UH-oh!” Irving gasped, remembering King Bountiful and the VeggieBeasts. “I’d better not take any chances!” Frantically, he held his nose and shoveled spoonfuls of carrots, broccoli, green beans and potatoes into his mouth.

“Irving… are you all right?” came a concerned voice outside his door. Gulping down the last of the green beans, he mumbled, “Yeah, Ma. I’m fine. Sorry I made you upset.”

“Oh, Irving, don’t worry about it,” Violet Zitkin said with a smile in her voice. “How about getting ready for bed now? I’ll see you in the morning, OK?”

“OK…Um-m, Ma?” Irving called sheepishly, “I’m done with my dinner now.”

“I know you are, ‘sweetheart’.” came a dry, crunchy chuckle. Irving suddenly froze in terror. “Yow! Corporal Carotte’s come back for me!

Holding his breath, he listened as the strange voice and shuffling footsteps faded down the stairs. Then he tiptoed softly to his door, opening it just a crack…

But all Irving saw was a plate heaped high with chocolate chip cookies.

Illustration & Text © 2006 Ilene Winn-Lederer

If illustrations appear distorted in your browser, just double-click on them for clear view.

Note To My Readers:

If you enjoyed this little story, would you like to see Irving & The VeggieBeasts fully illustrated as a book for children? Please comment!

Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation

July 26, 2017

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You know the old adage, “Time passes quickly when you’re having fun” ? Well, this sentiment truly described the years between 2007 and the present when I began thinking about snails. Now, why on earth would anyone care about snails except as a purportedly (I say ‘purportedly’ because these creatures are among those forbidden to me by religious doctrine) tasty dish served with garlic butter?  Because I actually find them fascinating since I am able to look at them objectively for their natural beauty and metaphoric value without planning how to cook them.

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These musings slowly inspired a series of eighteen drawings on several species of snail (a.k.a mollusca/gastropoda). Some of them appeared along with my thoughts/poems about them over those years in several blog posts here.* Later, during this project’s development, a friend loaned me an eye-opening book that proved very inspiring and that I now recommend to you: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey (2010). http://amzn.to/2w18Zpc

My drawings are not strictly scientific but an amalgam of fact and fancy. Each tells its own story, inviting questions and second glances. At first, not knowing whether these drawings should become a book or simply a portfolio collection, I put out a query on social media.  Though enthusiastic early feedback suggested a book, I still liked the idea of a portfolio collection and decided to publish a ‘bookfolio’ (a portfolio in book form) as a sort of compromise.

In this light, I considered writing more thought/poems like those in earlier posts. However, I soon determined that haiku (seventeen-syllable non-rhyming Japanese poems), with their economy of language would better complement the nature of my drawings.  Slyme-TextGrid-8x10.jpg

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Now, I am happy to announce the release of Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation. This 44-page ‘bookfolio‘ includes an introduction and has just been released from Imaginarius Editions in an initial small press run.

You can preview and purchase it (US$30) at my online gallery: http://bit.ly/2vzsSTM

Codex Gastropoda will soon be available at Amazon but for now you can also find it at my Etsy Shop: etsy.com/shop/Imaginarius

Given the experiences that inspired it, my goal for Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation became to raise awareness of the wondrous details that inform Creation and their consequences for our world. I hope this visual journey and spare prose will also inspire you to appreciate our complex existence and perhaps add your own words and ideas to the continuum of human creativity.  

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* https://wordpress.com/post/imaginarius13.wordpress.com/754 https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/the-snail-queens-soliloquy/  

*https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/postscript-for-the-new-year-a-divination-of-snails/ 

*https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/codex-gastropoda-4athe-time-snails/ 

*https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/codex-gastropoda-2-the-snails-song/ 

Publish Or Perish? Yes and Never!

January 13, 2011

This month, with the release of Stitchburgh from my imprints, Imaginarius Editions and TatterTale Press, I’ve brought an old dream to life. While the majority of my posts here have highlighted individual images, I’ve often been asked the eternal question: where do you get your ideas? The short answer is from everyone and everywhere. But today, I thought you might like to know the story behind Stitchburgh which in itself is a clue:

One day in 1979, when my children were young, I attended an exhibition of handmade quilts. Created by a Pittsburgh craft guild called The Quilter’s Triangle, their intricate colors and narrative quality moved me to research the history of this unique and personal form of expression. As a mother and an illustrator, I was inspired to create a work of art for my children. It would reflect my new interest in quilts as it enriched awareness of our neighborhood and daily lives. So I created an illustrated alphabet that I decided to make into a quilted wall hanging. First, I drew and painted everything onto a large canvas. Then, I chose the stuffing and fabric backing materials that would be needed. Since my skills do not include needlework (except for the occasional darned sock), Mrs. Fava, an elderly Italian seamstress in my neighborhood helped me put it all together. At bedtime the next evening, I told my children the first of many stories about Stitchburgh, an imaginary world where everything is made from the colorful patches of an old quilt. In this original tale about a little blue goose named Fanny Featherbottom and her beloved Aunt Madras Goose, a writer, Madras’ stitchwriter suddenly breaks. Her story, now tangled into knots, is lost. You are invited to follow the writer and her niece as they adventure around Stitchburgh in search for it and discover where good ideas are really found!

After that quilting exhibition, it would be eighteen months before I finished the first illustrated version of Stitchburgh in 1980, but this version would be far from the last. After countless submissions and revisions of the illustrated manuscript by editors who were probably wondering what it would take to make me go away, I was sitting on a thick stack of rejection form letters from dozens of mainstream publishers and had reached the bottom of my proverbial barrel. Suddenly it hit me. Why waste my energy staying mad when I could put it to better use?

You see, I remembered a story about Beatrix Potter, the renowned children’s author. Though she came from a comfortably wealthy English family, she was harboring stories that begged to be let out to play. She too experienced rejection from several publishers at the time. So, she gathered up her pluck and determination, printed a small edition of them privately and simply distributed them as gifts to friends and family. The printer whom she retained for her project was Frederick Warne & Co. who soon came to understand the potential value of her work. In time, they went on to turn Peter Rabbit into an international media and merchandising star for generations to come. On the tail of this memory, I asked myself, ‘why accept rejection as the last word?’

So with renewed hope, I gathered up one of my illustrated manuscripts and made an appointment with a local commercial printer to see what was involved in publishing my ‘masterpiece’ on my own. When I explained to the print salesman what I wanted, he looked at me incredulously. ‘Just a small run of a full-color, 32-page children’s book? You have to be kidding; are you aware of the costs? I was beginning to get nervous as he listed everything necessary to publishing a book, from layouts to finished art, from films to plates and paper, to press time and bindery charges. I was sinking into my chair when he gave me the final figure. At the time, the minimum press run for a picture book was 5000 printed, bound copies of my book: $18,500. The huge quantity was necessary in order justify setting up the gigantic four color press and to establish a fair market price for each copy sold.

In 1980, this was equivalent to a down payment on a modest home! ‘And,’ he added ominously, ‘that’s only the tip of the iceberg; what about the costs of marketing and distribution? How are you going to handle that? Stunned into silence, I imagined myself buried under a mountain of 5,000 books and quietly thanked him for his time. I slunk out of the office, feeling like a complete idiot.
Never mind pursuing other bids on the job; they were all in the same ballpark. As I packed away my dreams and resumed my life as wife, mother, teacher and freelance illustrator, I was again discouraged, but still hoped that I could somehow, someday make it happen.

Myriad other projects kept me busy over the years and in time, even as I illustrated other writer’s books for mainstream publishers, I cooked up some new ones of my own. During these years, print technology was advancing so that my early self-publishing experience would become an anachronism. While there had always been small private publishers snootily referred to as ‘vanity presses’ or ‘subsidy publishers’, authors who retained their services were not taken seriously. Rather, it became a stigma as their work was presumed to be substandard by the mainstream industry and therefore unpublishable.

However, early in 2000, as I began to explore the growing self-publishing industry, the mystique associated with mainstream publishing became more transparent. With major changes in the tax laws and the decline of the world economy, authors were no longer treated as celebrities unless they were entertainment media stars or prominent political figures. We could no longer depend on publishers to cover the expenses of heavily promoting our books. With a few exceptions, it looked as though mainstream publishers were not much more than glorified printers with the presumed aura of ‘marketing caché. To make matters worse, the giant bookstore chains on whom they depended for their marketing and distribution venues were struggling financially. These began to close many of their brick and mortar establishments and not surprisingly, corporate mainstream publishing is quaking in its boots. In addition, self-publishing, with ‘print-on-demand’ technology at its core is a rapidly growing industry that, partnered with the vast online merchant network is proving to be their formidable competition.

Happily, the vanity press stigma was being obliterated by the developing print technology because authors who became literate in its techniques could now publish their work with the newly emerging “print on demand’ industry. Though it would take me years to feel comfortable with the tools of computer aided design and sophisticated graphics software, I was fascinated to observe how these were driving a paradigm shift in the way books are produced, marketed and distributed.

Last year alone (2010), 764,448 self-published titles appeared – an increase of 181 percent from 2008. That compares with 289,729 titles from traditional publishing houses. These numbers come from the R.R. Bowker Co., the agency that grants ISBN numbers and compiles the bibliographic data that must appear in your book before you can release it for distribution. Such information is necessary for booksellers and libraries to catalogue and identify your book in the vast publishing marketplace.

Online companies such as CreateSpace, AuthorHouse, Blurb, Lulu, iUniverse and XLibris have made it relatively easy and affordable to put your ‘masterpiece’ out in the market. There are gigabytes of information out there comparing profit and loss to authors in both self and mainstream publishing, and you might want to look at these as you decide whether to self-publish or continue to submit your manuscripts to mainstream publishers. But numbers can be overwhelming and can do much to squelch your desire to venture into this market as an author.

As a typical artist and writer consumed by their art, I gave these figures a cursory nod, shrugged my shoulders and became absorbed in my fantasy of self-publishing. I worked to enhance my technological skills and happily imagined the fame and fortune my efforts would generate. I published my first effort, The Alchymical Zoodiac: A Celestial Bestiary in 2009 under my own imprint, Imaginarius Editions.

Though my sales of The Alchymical Zoodiac to date have just covered my expenses, I decided that after 31 years, Stitchburgh was still begging to become a reality. Paraphrasing the immortal words of Star Trek’s Captain Jean Luc Picard, I decided to “Make it sew!” Maybe at some point, if they still exist, a mainstream publisher will become interested in what I have done and consider producing a subsidiary edition and ancillary products. Maybe even, some bright star at Pixar might see animation film potential in it. You never know. But most encouraging are the kind words and support from all of you! Both Stitchburgh and The Alchymical Zoodiac may be purchased @my webfolio via PayPal: http://www.winnlederer.com