Jacobsen at Jacobson


I almost forgot to put deodorant on before my school visit. If you doubt the seriousness of this near-miss of personal hygiene, you clearly have never referred to one of your drawings with  "and this is Number Two" to a classroom of third  graders, or sprayed the front of your pants with water from a recalcitrant bathroom faucet--twice--resulting in a snicker-inducing wet spot. Giant pit stains rest securely in the top ten of giggle-producing pandemonium at any elementary school, and rightly so.
Underarms coated twice, I arrived at Anna Marie Jacobson Elementary in Chandler for two presentations to fifth and sixth graders. My visit was part of the week-long Read Across America celebration, but I also had the good fortune of my day coinciding with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Being greeted by Ms. Cartan  in a Cat in the Hat striped top hat with a black nose and whiskers artfully painted on her face can't help but put you at ease.
The two presentations went off without any embarrassments or technical hitches, and I was once again blown away and deeply impressed by the sea of bright minds before me. Their questions were thoughtful, their answers astute. The idea that we would short change these kids in any way, in the ways we already do, seems criminal and deeply saddening. Here in Arizona we seem to be fighting a losing battle. Certain politicians seem to think that the bare minimum is good enough. Well, it isn't. The kids at Jacobson elementary and everywhere deserve all we can give them, and I hope that in some small way my presentations said, "I believe in your potential. I will keep on fighting for you. I will not give up on you." I also hope it said "Making books is a fun and interesting job, and pit stains are not the end of the world."


Oh no.

No, no, no, this can't be happening.

No, no, no, no, nooooooooo it can't be, no...not...not...


Oh yes.

I can't believe this. I know I double, no, TRIPLE checked.  I always, always get a window, always. I would never, ever choose the MIDDLE! Wait, let's look again...28E. E. Row 28 D, E...F.

Kill me now.

You'd better believe I'm pulling that arm rest down mister, and it's MINE, you got the window, you lean on it. What? Why is she talking to me? Do I look like a chatterer? I'm in the middle seat lady, what do you think? Talk to that guy across the aisle, and keep that vermin-ridden blanket off my leg. I should have taken an extra Dramamine, and maybe a Benedryl. I am not going to be sufficiently comatose to survive four hours in the MIDDLE SEAT. Oh my God, what is that smell? Is someone, no really, he can't be, he IS. Who changes a baby diaper in an airplane seat?  Am I the only one who SMELLS THAT? I...I must be, she is seriously unwrapping a sandwich. Is she, oh no, ugh, is she  going to EAT while he does that?

I'm not trying to sleep to loudly for you, am I dude? How about you turn that Shuffle up one more notch, your ears aren't bleeding yet.

O.K. it must be almost over, right? Is that still the same movie? Oh no , it is. Aaaagggghhhh it's only been ten minutes. That's it, I have died and gone to MIDDLE SEAT purgatory. I'm pretty sure my foot has swollen to three times it's normal size and I think my spine is telescoping. My neck pillow is overstuffed.  It's perfect to lean against the window with, but I feel like I'm at the dentist in the MIDDLE SEAT.

No, no that was great, hey you tried to cover that sneeze. The fact that it came shooting out the sides of your cupped hand and hit my cheek is really not your fault. Just a few peanut crumbs, no biggie. Please, please, please  put your shoes back on.

Is it over? Oh yes, solid ground. We're here. Just a few more minutes. O.K. then... alright...O.K...PARK THE FREAKIN' PLANE ALREADY!

Anytime you want to start moving lady. You've got, you know, all that stuff, your giant purse, that pink Harley Davidson suitcase, that half eaten sandwich... I mean, it would help me out if you could get going. I did keep my mouth shut when you kept talking on your cell phone after the flight attendant had said it should be turned off and stowed, soooo...

Sorry, didn't mean to smack you in the face with my bag, and almost knock you unconscious as I charged up the aisle, but  I've been in the MIDDLE SEAT for four hours. You understand.

Going Global

Forgive me readers, it has been two months since my last post.  My work load has picked up considerably, and by considerably I mean I finally have some after the economic meltdown of last year that left most of us scrounging in the couch cushions for grocery money, if one was lucky to still have a couch and hadn"t traded it for toilet paper or a shot at being first in line for the grocery bagging job.

In between juggling assignments, updating my Facebook status and expressing my deep disgust, both verbally and through the written word, of the final Lost episode, time has flown by.

This is typical for life here in the trenches.  Projects never come nicely spaced, and if they do the space is soon eliminated by some crisis of biblical magnitude, anything from an editor going on vacation and "forgetting" to send you the revisions, to the washing machine deciding that draining the dirty water is too much trouble and it will wait for you to do it with a length of tubing and some lung power.

No matter how carefully one plans and schemes and pores over the calendar, it will never be a leisurely pace to the finish. Never. No, no, trust me, NE-VER. Remember those frantic college all-nighters? That is your life on freelancing, and unless you consider that grocery bagging job fun (it"s not) you will be thankful for it. Your social life will consist solely of the aforementioned Facebook updates, which is good considering personal hygiene also takes a back seat when deadlines loom. I like to alternate between Facebook and checking my website stats. For us regular Janes, even those of us who rocketed well past the planet of the horribly jaded in middle school, there is always the faintest glimmer of hope--maybe I"m about to be discovered (by whom and for what remains a bit nebulous). Maybe that hit from Moosebutt, Alaska is an editor on vacation. Perhaps right now, he is being wowed by the depth and skill of my work. Maybe he is picking up the phone RIGHT NOW. Maybe...huh? What? Oh right, right...where was I? You know on some level that it"s more likely your mom"s hairdresser"s cousin who just happens to be writing a children"s book and will soon be contacting you about some pro bono work, but still...checking one more time can"t hurt, can it?

The thing about stats that is the most fun for me is seeing all the different hits from countries other than the U.S. I usually get a nice handful each week from all over the globe, but recently noticed a deluge of hits from China, dozens! A little worried that I was suddenly on a watch list somewhere,  I clicked on the referring link and found myself on a Chinese website, which roughly translated by Google (and I mean VERY roughly, as in surely there"s a verb in this sentence) turned out to be a site where people in China post illustration websites they"ve found and like. How cool is that! Me! Big in China! O.K. fine, maybe "big" is overstating it, but it gives me a little thrill anyway. We illustrators tend to lead a very isolated existence, shuffling to the mailbox in our slippers at four in the afternoon pretty much sums up most days" outings, and to think that somewhere, on the other side of the world, another human being and I crossed paths in a way that could never, ever have happened before, well, that"s pretty darn cool. I spend a few minutes wondering about those folks, the ones who liked my website. What did they have for dinner? Where do they like to go for fun? What does their house look like? Where did they get that rug on the floor? And for a minute I feel a little more connected to my fellow human beings on this incredibly small planet.

Then it"s back to work.


"Come with me."
"I'll make eggplant Parmesan just for you."
"No. I am not going to drive all the way to Tucson just to sit around while you do your thing at some conference."
"Oh, but it's not a conference, it's a FESTIVAL!" I zoomed in for the kill. "There'll be funnel cake!"
Two hours later long-suffering hubby and I arrived at the Tucson Festival of Books on the campus of the University of Arizona. To say it is a large event is an understatement. Don't believe me? http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org
I did have "my thing" to do, but in between carrying stuff, holding stuff and guarding stuff while I waited in line for various restrooms, hubby was more than able to entertain himself among the booths, bookstore tents, and of course the food court. I presented with the author of my two books on Muslim holidays, Asma Mobin-Uddin, signed some books, and gave a drawing workshop for kids. The workshop's four o'clock time slot had me sure I would be taking a well deserved nap instead, but surprisingly I had a nice turnout of future authors and illustrators. Asma and I had to compete in our time-slot with some dude named Mark Teague, of whom I'm VAGUELY aware, so attendance was not standing room only. There is no accounting for taste. This was the first time Asma and I had met in person, something which seems to boggle everyone except writers and illustrators. Usually, an editor or art director umbrella is needed to protect each from the poo storm that is unleashed when one dares to comment or criticize the other's writing or art. Fortunately, Asma and I realized we could probably have handled it. Mostly.
" Please, please, everyone, no pushing, single file! There's enough autographs to go around!"
How cool is this? Huh? Huh? That's right-my books! In a STORE! Animal Mischief was there too! Piles of them! I had to sit down.
One of the highlights of the day was spotting the various book characters, obviously student volunteers in large, foam suits of dubious cleanliness. We saw a rather pasty Junie B., a slightly linty Hungry Caterpillar, a Wild Thing that almost got stuck in the doorway (and me without my video camera) as well as several fast food characters.
"Can you believe that," I voiced my outrage to hubby over the crass commercialization aimed at kids while I slurped down my third McFrappilicious as the Hamburglar and Grimace waddled by. I turned just in time to see hubby sprinting after them.


“Wuvvv…Twue wuvvv…”
(If you have never seen The Princess Bride, you may leave now, head hung in shame.) It’s February, and time for the holiday that can cause even the most successful, well adjusted adult to flash back to middle school and a locker devoid of shiny foil and lace hearts from admirers. Oh, you pretended not to care, concentrating hard on removing lunch from your braces with your tongue, a skill that would in fact make you quite popular at a later date, but at the end of the day you went home certain your unlovable self would wander this dark earth alone for the rest of your pathetic, loser days.
What a relief to grow up and discover that, contrary to what People magazine would have you believe, human beings aren’t all that particular when it comes to mating.
Even steaming stew pots of crazy can find lids.
Being the companion, or “lid” in you will, of an artist takes a special fortitude. Sure, there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part we are needy, whiny, and insecure. Add in an iffy list of employable skills and really most people should turn and run. On the off chance that these things do not deter you, that you find curiosity, creativity and the occasional odd piercing intriguing, allow me to pass along some tips for coexisting peacefully with the object, or “pot” if you will, of your affection.
1. We will frequently ask your opinion on the piece we’re working on, but your opinion will mean less to us than the treadmill repairman’s. Do not take this personally.
2. Pointing to a small insignificant element that took us thirty seconds to bang out and calling it “your favorite part” will cause a protracted period of sulking. Do not take this personally.
3. When faced with changes to our work or rejection in any form, your full participation is expected in the subsequent vilification of the perpetrator. You will take this very, very personally.
4. You should be kind, unfailingly encouraging and our biggest fan. And always, expect the same in return.
Happy Valentine’s Day!