Finding the perfect Christmas tree

We drive up to the big red barn at Spring Valley Family Tree Farm and we’re greeted by three friendly Christmas goats visiting from Meadowlark Heritage Farm. One has a big red clanking bell around it’s neck and a reindeer horn headband. We walk into the barn and smell cinnamon sugar and sweet batter in hot oil. There is a donut cart to our right frying up fresh donuts. On the left is a wreath display and a pretty girl playing a keyboard and singing Christmas carols. At the side of the barn, outside the door to the Christmas shop, there is complementary cocoa, coffee, cookies, and candy canes. We open the door to the shop and see lovely Christmas decorations and cards and locally made soaps and jewelry.

I’m here to drop off some of my art to sell in the shop. My girls and I spy the display where they have the book I illustrated already for sale. Nearby there are some cute snowman decorations made from tree limbs. One of them reminds us of Granddad, so we buy that one for Grandma. The smiling girl behind the counter tells us that her mom made the snowmen and she painted their faces. Soon we are stirring up hot cocoa and admiring the fresh smelling Christmas trees. We see one we like. The branches are strong for heavy ornaments and the needles are short and not too prickly. The lady who owns the tree farm tells us what kind it is.

Can we get it? It is too tall for our house.

The nice man in the Carhartt jacket show us where in the fields we can find one like it only smaller. He gives us a santa hat to put on top of the tree we pick so the young man with the four wheeler and chainsaw can find it. Some families have brought their own saw to cut down a tree. They drag it back to the barn together on a tarp to keep it from getting muddy. We didn’t wear very good shoes for dragging trees, so the young man with the cowboy hat cuts it down and brings it to the barn where we pay for it.

Our tree is perfect. We are so thankful for our fun time at the Christmas tree farm!img_3854

Sell out at Auntie’s

Storytime at Auntie’s Bookstore was lovely! Jason Farley, the author of Waiting Through Winter read the story out loud to a passel of children and their parents sitting on the stairs of the amazing two story children’s book section. The children were simply delightful as they told Jason and I what their favorite animals were and how many of them hibernated too. Auntie’s sold out of all the books they had in stock and Jason had to bring in more from his stash in his vehicle. I highly recommend Auntie’s bookstore for a cozy afternoon perusing and reading books. We certainly had a wonderful time!


A thing or two about telling stories

I recently attended an illustrator intensive workshop put on by the Inland Northwest Region of SCBWI. The presenter was Robert Lence. He’s worked in the story department for Pixar, Dreamworks, and Disney and has been an instructor at California Institute of the Arts.

He knows a thing or two about telling stories.

A few concepts emphasized during the course of the intensive were: have a great foundational idea/concept, play to your strengths, have the endurance to throw it out if it’s bad and re-create, and finally just begin.

At the end of the intensive, we were to tell an entire story with one illustration (with no caption) in one hour. No pressure! I had to leave to pick up my kids from school, so I had about 15 minutes. To save time, I went with a story that everyone already knows. (I told how the Tortoise really beat the Hare).

I was able to make it back to hear the critique and the results of the juried assignment. The solutions from the attendees were incredible. Robert’s feedback was excellent and everyone’s storytelling skills were sharpened. I didn’t think my speed drawing would win any awards, but I actually did get a prize for it. Below, you can see me with Robert and my ‘swag.’

And without intending it, my story panel reinforced one of the most important concepts a story-teller can grasp: START. As the wise Gaffer from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings said, “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”