The Flicker’s Call or Why I’m Quitting the Internet

Posted August 16th, 2012 by Candice

It’s been coming all summer.  Many days I felt like tipping my Internet computer out the window of my second floor office.  I even said so to my husband a few times.  But this week the Internet and I had a genuine falling out.  

On an early morning walk a few days ago, I heard a bird:  kik-kik-kik-kik!   Loud.  Almost like the jungle calls in the old Tarzan movies.  I couldn’t see the bird, but I knew that call yet I hadn’t a clue what it was.  It bothered me for days.  Wasn’t a blue jay or a crow or a hawk.  Not one of the regular songbirds.  What was it?  And why couldn’t I identify it?  This wasn’t like dumping state capitals when you turn 40, or the old why-am-I-in-this-room memory loss.  No, this was brain fog.  I finally realized the bird was a flicker.

Then I got an email marked “Urgent Photo Request!” from a photo researcher for United’s in-flight magazine.  She desperately needed a high rez image of the cover of a little book I did ten years ago, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, a flat-fee deal for a paperback that would sell in Kmart.  The magazine’s sidebar would have a snippet comparing older illustrations of Grimm’s tales to today’s friendlier versions.

Instead of going to my writing first thing, I searched for the book.  My comp copies are stored in enormous vintage suitcases that weigh tons.  I lifted and shoved and scrabbled through shelves, finally finding a copy in my files.  Next I scanned the cover and three images, sent them to the researcher, got back a chirpy “thanks.”   I’d blown half the morning on something trivial because of an “urgent” email.

Besides distraction and brain fog—I can remember URLs more readily than my nieces’ birthdays—the Internet feeds on my tendency toward restlessness and agitation.  It wasn’t always like this.

Remember the early days of the Internet?  Dial-up?  Kind of clunky, but exciting.  Email, the World Wide Web, and Amazon . . . messages from far-flung friends, looking up facts, buying books only.  It was like going to Grandma’s house.  Now the Net is more like those Red Riding Hood topsy-turvy dolls.  Sometimes you get Grandma.  Sometimes the wolf.

For years I’ve turned on my computer at 6:30 in the morning to take care of emails and business I hadn’t finished the day before.  After supper, I go back to the computer and try to quit before 7:30, but often it’s 8:00 or later before I’m off.  I go to bed at 9:00, so there’s not much “free time.”  During the day, I check my mail several times, interrupting the flow of my work.  Weekends are spent cleaning the house and updating my blog, processing photos, updating web pages and my website, sending emails regarding school visits and promoting my book.  By Sunday evening, I’m cranky as hell.

And then there’s the “quick fact check” that turns into an hour or more of link-hopping, blog-reading, book-shopping, music-video-bingeing, and Etsy-popping.  Thank God I’m not hooked on Pinterest.  Yet. 

It’s hard to describe my particular problem.  Surfing the Net, which I do several times a day, makes me feel confused and uncertain.  It creates obsessive thinking and drives my mood downward.  My work days are longer because of these jags and I am unhappier.   I’m not addicted (I took the test) because I can’t wait to get off the computer and dread getting on it. 

So why not just turn the sucker off?  I have but then I turn it back on.  I’ve covered the monitor with a towel, like trying to fool a canary into thinking it’s dark outside.  I pull the towel off.  The only thing that will work is to move the Internet computer out of my office entirely.   Sunday evening, I’m putting it in the garage for one month.

There are qualifications to my sabbatical:  I’m doing it for five weeks—one month at home and the final week I’ll be at Bell House on my usual writing retreat where there is no Internet anyway.  I will go to the library Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to check my mail and conduct business.  I’ll make notes of facts I need to check and do it then.  But there will be no blogging, no blog-reading, no book reviewing, no photo editing, no shopping, and no flitting around.

My husband said it will be hard.  Yes.   And it’s hard making this public announcement, like telling people you’re going to lose 30 pounds by Christmas.  But the minute I made this decision—yesterday afternoon —I felt like I’d been let out of jail. 

Here’s what’ll I gain right away:  One) more desk space!  Two) the ability to walk in my office and sit down at my work computer and begin writing.  I hope the brain fog will lift.  I hope some of my restlessness will dissipate.  I hope my mood stays lifted.  Mostly I hope I’ll be able to set bounds on the Internet computer when it comes back in my office.

And maybe I’ll even have more time to do this.

Wish me luck.



Sewing Plan

Posted April 30th, 2012 by Candice

It was the best April plan ever.   I’d use the month before my husband’s surgery to whip up a little book.  Keep myself sane, productive.   

First, I’d pick out a pattern for my new book (Simplicity!).  Next I’d go shopping for material–something chapter-bookish, maybe light blue gingham or a little sailboat print.  Then I’d come home, pin the pattern to the fabric, cut them out, baste the big pieces together.

While wisteria bloomed, I’d stitch up the chapters.  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.  Maybe eight.  I’d sew on a row of pearly buttons to close those chapters fast.  At the last minute, I’d decide to add a pocket with the scraps.  Embroider the main character’s initials on it.  That would tickle her.

But the plan unraveled before it hardly started.  Today is the first of May and I’m frantically ripping seams.  There is no April book.  There is one revised-ten-times frayed Chapter One.  And that’s it.

I know, I know.  I was rushing.  But I wanted a new book so bad.  It was like ninth grade when I was dying for a Villager shirtwaist dress.  I might as well have asked for a Dior ball gown.  Then lo! our home ec sewing project was a Village-style shirtwaist dress!  I picked out a tiny turquoise floral print I adored.  In no time flat, I’d be sashaying down the halls of Woodson High in my new fitted-to-me dress, just like the cool rich girls.

A Dior ball gown could not have been more complicated.  Invisible side-zipper, button-front placket, buttoned cuffs, Peter Pan collar, pintucks.  Every day, I sewed feverishly on our class sewing machine.  Every day, the vision of myself sashaying in turquoise grew dimmer, especially after I sewed the dress to the skirt I was wearing.  I took the bungled mess home to my mother, who nursed it back to health, though it failed to thrive (my mother was an excellent seamstress, but not an exorcist). 

Some of the girls’ finished dresses could not be distinguished from a real Villager, their pintucks were that straight, their zippers truly invisible.  Mine wasn’t ready for the ragbag like my friend Sandy’s, but it radiated homemade.  It didn’t really fit.

This book plan didn’t fit either.  I can’t write a book in four weeks (though I used to, all the time).  Especially since I had a meltdown every week, zigzag-stitching my terrible mood right over my hapless characters.

So I’ve gathered up the loose threads of that story and packed it in my bottom drawer with all the other half-finished projects.  It’s May.  I have the Iva sequel to revise.  That will be like darning socks, lapwork I can do sitting in a comfortable chair with good light coming over my shoulder.

Buzzards, a School Visit, and Elizabeth Spencer

Posted October 4th, 2011 by Candice


Listen to this:  “Take Highway 202 and follow along the prettiest road.  It’s just about the way it always was–worn deep down like a tunnel and thick with shade in summer.  In spring, it’s so full of sweet heavy odors, they make you drunk, you can’t think of anything–you feel you will faint or go right out of yourself.  In fall, there is the rustle of leaves under your tires and the smell of them, all sad and Indian-like.  Then in the winter, there are only dust and bare limbs, and mud when it rains, and everything is like an old dirt-dauber’s nest up in the corner.”

Pick yourself off the floor and get to your library.  Check out Elizabeth Spencer’s The Southern Woman, her collected short stories (or anything by her).  The story I’ve quoted from is “A Southern Landscape.”  I read it at lunch yesterday and felt faint and fell right of myself just reading her wonderful prose.  I loved her description of the how leaves smelled–“sad and Indian-like.”  It brought to mind images of Native American ghosts passing silently down an old hunting trail.

Place, I told my students this summer in our memoir class, is not just bricks and mortar.  It’s the weather.  A person growing up in Montana, where nature is very much a force in their lives, is different from a person growing up in New York City, where people are very much a force in their lives.  Winter weather in Montana can be harsh, all that Great Plains drifting snow and wind.  Winter in New York is mostly dreary, with enough snow to make everyone grouchy.

And place, as so beautifully demonstrated by Elizabeth Spencer, is also the seasons.  I grew up in Northern Virginia, where the weather is “moderate” (boiling hot in summer, yucky in winter, with gorgeous springs and autumns to make you forget about the other two). 

Because we had a big garden, our lives revolved around the weather.  My stepfather didn’t just listen to the radio or watch the weather report on TV.  He read the sky.  And he taught me how to do that, too.   Since we were outdoors a lot, he taught me the kinds of trees and how to identify some birds. 

The minute I could read, I grabbed every book on birds I could find.  I wanted to know what was around me, what lived in the world I lived in.  I learned about wildflowers and weeds.  I learned about the habits of the small animals in our woods.  I tried to know about rocks, but their secrets seemed to be locked inside.   When I go on my walks, I’m not plugged into an iPod.  I still pay attention to the little goings-on around me.

And this brings me to my recent school visit.  The students at this school were wonderful, bright and funny.  I could have stayed for a week.  During my K-1 assembly, I was acutely aware as I read The Big Green Pocketbook (almost 20 years old) that these kids were hearing about foreign things like typewriters, hand-cancelled checks, five-and-dime stores, drug stores (sometimes I have to explain it’s not where we bought our cocaine), Trailways buses . . . so many things not in their world. 

Yet the question that brought me up short was from a fifth grader who wanted to know what a buzzard was.  My breath caught in my throat just an instant.  How could those older children not know about the birds that circled over their heads nearly every day?  Just look up, you’ll see one.  I described a vulture’s gliding flight pattern (truly the best flier ever), the once-twice flap of wings every twenty minutes or so.  

The day I spoke, the school also hosted Young Scientists.  I saw the team, dressed in white lab coats, bustling in with their equipment.  The notion crossed my mind to hustle the kids out of the gym and into the fields.  We would identify yellow tickseed and look for milkweed pods that had burst open.  Made wishes on milkweed “fairies.”  We would have watched anxious beetles scuttling through the grass.  The season is changing–all creatures are anxious.  We would have looked up to observe birds.

We would have gotten tipsy on late-September, grown dizzy watching the lazy circles of a turkey vulture, enjoyed the slant of the sun before autumn slips in, sad and Indian-like.


Where I’m Going: The Next Book Project

Posted January 20th, 2011 by Candice

I have three good book ideas.  I had intended to start working on one of the older ones, but this character ran over top of the other two and said, "I’m next."

Her desk notebook is already half-filled with notes.

The go-with-me-everywhere journal is a composition notebook covered with one piece of really cool scrapbook paper!  I only buy Vera Bradley purses big enough to accomodate these journals.

I’ve gathered the necessary totems.

Can you guess the theme of this new book?  C’mon, Maisey Poe.  Let’s go!

Yes, They Have It in White–Making Your Mark, Part II

Posted January 7th, 2011 by Candice

Yesterday I went to Richmond to do some research.  On my way back, I swung back through Mechanicsville to visit my oldest niece, Susan.  My sister came over, too.  We ate and talked about nothing and everything, like we always do.

My niece’s birthday was Monday.  Because I’m incurably nosy, a trait my family members tolerate without comment, I went through Susan’s birthday cards.  On the bottom was one made of construction paper from Sherri, her nine-year-old daughter.  I read it eagerly.  The front has a koala bear clinging happily to a coconut tree. 

Inside it says, "Be a lazy kauala on your speacail day."  I love how the koala is tucked in bed with a multi-colored bedspread.  And then Sherri made her mother a little koala bear clinging to a coconut tree out of clay.  Aren’t the best presents made with small hands?

Sherri made me a clay cat for Christmas.  It’s shown with the very small paper tag for scale (note how she ran out of room in writing and had to erase and start over–don’t you love the feeling of writing pellmell right off the edge of the paper?)  The cat is my favorite Christmas present.  I keep it and the tag on a shelf in my sitting room.

From the time she was able to stand, Sherri has been an artist.  Drawing, painting, coloring.  She favors me (has my eyes, eyebrows, and fine hair) and takes after me in that she is always making something, is a picky eater (clearly I outgrew that), likes things "just so," loves cats, especially her black and white cat named Stinky, and is color-sensitive.  She’s already blasted through her pink and purple girl phases and has settled comfortably into turquoise, my favorite color at her age. 

Susan and Sherri on Christmas Day, 2010

I noticed Susan was crocheting a bedspread for herself.  She had another bag of yarn, filled with skeins of white and a soft turquoise color.  She told me she saw the turquoise yarn in Michael’s and called Sherri at home and asked if she would like a bedspread in her favorite color. 

Sherri:  Oh, yes, Mama.  And do they also have white?
Susan:  Yes, they have white.  So you want a granny-square bedspread?
Sherri:  Yes.  [I pictured her already picking out turquoise throw pillows.]

My sister is also crocheting another bedspread.  I scrapbook in the evenings.  Sherri and Ashley, my ten-year-old great-niece by my other niece Stephanie, are both avid crafters and artists.  The girls in our family create.  They start young.  They don’t think about it too much, they just do it.   So don’t be a lazy kauala.  Start making your mark.  Just start.

We Made Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf!

Posted December 17th, 2010 by Candice
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Sarah Hollander, the illustrator of The Twelve Days of Christmas in Washington, D.C., and I made Publisher Weekly’s Children’s Bookshelf!

We aren’t alone–there are other Twelve Days authors and illustrators at their signings (and singings).   But Sarah looks the happiest.  She should.  She set up this signing at the wonderful children’s bookstore Hooray for Books! in Old Town Alexandria (and a zillion other signings).  I want to send a big shout-out to Sarah for working so hard this fall to arrange for autographings and bring the book to the attention of so many people.

If you missed the story about the series, you can read it in Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf.  You might be able to nab one of the remaining states in the series.  Meredith Mundy, the editor of the Twelve Days series, is terrific to work with!

Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature…and Me

Posted November 4th, 2010 by Candice

Late last year I was asked by Christine Jenkins, Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (whew!), to contribute an essay on series books to a scholarly children’s literature text.  Realizing my name and the words "scholarly children’s literature text" would never be mentioned in the same sentence ever again, I agreed.

I was sent the chapter, "Dime Novels and Series Books," by Catherine Sheldrick Ross (Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario) and was asked to write about my experiences as a writer of children’s series books.  Many scholarly chapters were followed by "Point of Departure" essays by such authors as Lois Lowry, M.T. Anderson, Leonard Marcus, Julius Lester, Jacqueline Woodson, Philip Pullman, and David Wiesner.

Catherine Ross’s chapter is comprehensive and elegant, chronicling the rise of cheap fiction for children to the importance of series books to today’s readers.  I was stunned by her thoroughness and wondered what on earth I could possibly add.  I wrote several poor pontificating pieces in which I was trying to come off at least half as knowledgeable as Ross.  It didn’t work.  My thoughts were like shrapnel, ineffective because I never hit the target.

Then I remembered my "work small" theory.  When in doubt, take a subject to its smallest, most personal denominator.  So instead of writing about my work in series children’s books, or what I thought about them, or how they contributed to the development of transitional readers, I wrote about my introduction to series books, the first Trixie Belden book I discovered mysteriously in my house.  By relating one incident with one book, I was able focus my scattered thoughts and aim for the heart of my subject. 

There were some back-and-forthings over the summer with the editors, proof-reading and such.  And then last week, one of the editors informed me the book was on its way!  The package arrived on my porch the next day.  I opened it and there it was, the Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature, edited by Shelby A. Wolf, Karen Coats, Patricia Encisco, and Christine A. Jenkins. 

It’s gorgeous!  555 pages!  I wanted to order a few copies to send to friends and relatives, but I didn’t see a price.  I checked the publisher, Routledge.  The book sells for $119.95!!!  One hundred, nineteen dollars and ninety-five cents!  (Amazon sells it discounted for $93.) Needless to say, I won’t be buying copies to drop in my relatives’ Christmas stockings.

I’m thrilled to be included in this comprehensive text, a "landmark volume [that] is the first to bring together the leading scholarship on children’s and young adult literature from three intersecting disciplines:  Education, English, and Library and Information Science.  Distinguished by its multidisplinary approach, it describes and analyzes the different aspects of literary reading, texts, and contexts to illuminate how the book is transformed within and across different academic figurations of reading and interpreting children’s literature."

Yeah.  What they said.

Okay, I’d love for you to run right out buy this wonderful book, but I’d understand if you had to decide between paying the electric bill and getting this book, keeping your lights on would win.  Still, it’s a worthwhile text for anyone interested in children’s literature because it covers so many aspects of the field.  Look for it in your library.  If they don’t have it, tell them to order a copy.  It’s worth every penny.

Iva Honeysuckle, My Office, and Me

Posted October 25th, 2010 by Candice

When I first moved into my newly redecorated office last spring, it was a mutual admiration society.  I loved my new office.  My new office loved me.  But it would be months before I put the new space to the real test.  Actually writing a book and dealing with the dailyness of being a fulltime writer.  The last three months I’ve done a lot of work in here:  speeches, manuscript critiques, and, yes, I began and finished the Iva Honeysuckle sequel.

That was the true test.  Could I settle down and write a new book in this space?  Could I find things?  I scratch around a little to locate files and clippings, but it’s nothing like the complete demolition that occurred back when the office was a t-total mess.

Since my photo shoot last April, new things have been acquired.  My office has welcomed some of those things.  Other things, it was like, "Are you sure I have room for that?"  Or, "Put it there."  "No, over there."  "No, back where it was."  Newly decorated offices can be very picky. 

The biggest acquisition is a table with a Singer sewing machine base.  I found one for $50 (generally run $100 to $150).  The top was painted a bilious green.  My husband soon took care of that.  While he was painting it in the driveway, several people stopped by wanting to buy it.  I thought my office would love this highly-prized item, but it balked at first.  It said the table looked weird on the end of the row of bookcases that back up against my desk.  It does, a little.  But I always need surface area for research books.  And the treadle comes in handy for jack o’lanterns!

The step stool was in my aunt’s house (that I helped clean out in June), in her kitchen as far back as I can remember.  Everyone perched on the stool the minute they came in the kitchen.  My sister bought it and gave it to me for my birthday.  It means the world and all to me. 

Another of my famous hand-covered notebooks on the seat.  The steps hold books sometimes.

These are fake plants.  Winchester eats real plants and they’re bad news for cats.  The vintage chipped enamel basin and the aqua-painted houseplant trellis creates a dish garden I don’t have to water.

The binoculars are old, but not as old as the crow-foot candlestick that my husband’s father found in a hundred-year-old house he was remodeling back in the 1940s.  I collect vintage typewriter ribbon tins. 

My stepfather’s graduation certificate from Centreville Graded School (the same one I attended many years later), dated May 1932.  I wasn’t going to hang anything on that one blank wall but couldn’t resist.  The framed cards are sheet music replicas.  Virginia was the subject of many songs back in the Tin Pan Alley days.

That little cheese box used to be empty.  Now it holds two sweet birds’ nests from my aunt’s summer house, an old ink bottle, and a box of old paper clips that came from my uncle’s office.  The Fisher-Price duck was a find in Roanoke this summer.  The almanac on the child’s chair is from the year I was born, 1952.  Research!

My friend Connie gave me the Fisher-Price tractor for my birthday.  It’s kind of hard to see because I put it in the spice rack my stepfather (the original Tractor Days daddy) made fme.  The old " moo-cow" noisemaker seems a perfect companion.

New things slip into this big room, but I’m careful not to overfill the space (it takes me two hours to dust as it is!).  And new, hopeful projects will go out of this room.   Yeah.  My office and me, we get along just fine.

Working Small

Posted August 5th, 2010 by Candice

Whenever I come back from a Hollins summer, I suffer from re-entry into the real world.  My house hasn’t been cleaned in six weeks (my husband does vacuum and sweep), at least one cat is sick, and I have the feeling I need to be someplace important but I’m staring at the wrong bus schedule. 

The same is true this summer.  My house is straight, but names scrawled in the dust on the furniture can be viewed from Landsat.  Winchester had to go to the vet for a chronic respiratory ailment which involves new medications he’ll be on the rest of his life–and a lot of subterfuge on the part of mine.  And I need to re-enter my work zone of major projects.  What to do first?  The memoir?  The current novel?  The novel I put off to start the current novel?  The novel that’s due in November that I insanely believe I can write in six weeks?   Or maybe I should start working on the workshop for next month’s conference?  Or what about that idea for a paper for next year’s Children’s Literature Association conference?  Or . . .?

Two days ago I was in our new Joseph-Beth bookstore, meeting with the marketing person about an upcoming event.  I couldn’t remember her name (or mine) and was so tired I felt stupid.  All I wanted to do was lie down on the comfy sofa by the waterwall and take a little nap.  I had only been home three days.  I wasn’t ready to be my public self.  Not yet.

I have learned the hard way it does me no good to beat myself up.  If I frantically throw myself into trying to clean the whole house in a weekend, I get cranky, Winchester ducks under the ottoman (no easy feat considering he gained a pound this summer), and my husband starts looking at the classifieds for vacations for one.  If I tell myself, "Today I must scrub all the bathrooms, go to Wegman’s, write chapter one of the novel and research the paper idea and outline my workshop," most likely I will read a Dorothea Benton Frank novel and eat Cool Ranch Doritoes and then be grumpy because I didn’t do anything on my list.

Instead I will Work Small. 

Working small means going to a funky little diner instead of a swanky restaurant where you are ushered to a table with too many forks and presented with a wine list and the waiter rattles off fifteen specials of the day.  Working small means taking a stool at the counter.  It means ignoring the long menu (though the fried bologna sandwich is tempting) and ordering one small thing, like a piece of pie.

Today I will edit the "musts" and "shoulds" to a very small list.  I will work on one writing project and not all day.  This morning I will write for fifteen minutes.  No longer.  This afternoon I’ll write another fifteen minutes.  Then I’ll take notes on the book. 

But first I will bake a yellow cake, before it gets too hot.  After my fifteen minutes of morning writing, I’ll go to the library.  Then I’ll go back to the Joseph-Beth bookstore, but I won’t talk to anyone.  I’m still not ready to be my public self.  I won’t browse the whole store either.  Instead I’ll pick out two magazines and curl up in a chair in a corner and look at them.  I’ll buy one of them.

I won’t go to the big fancy grocery store either.  Too many people, too many choices.  Instead I may go to our version of the funky little diner and order one thing, a piece of pie.  Because it’s a funky little place, they will be out of everything but coconut cream and lemon meringue. 

Lemon meringue, definitely.  I’ll eat the pointy part first and make a wish.


A Picture Is Worth . . .

Posted April 30th, 2010 by Candice

Since I was a children’s book writer, I decided my office should be decorated in primary colors.  My first office had a blue office desk, a tomato red IBM Selectric, a red trashcan from Conran’s, a red metal bookcase . . . children’s book art often used bright colors, so I had lots of posters and cards decorating my walls. 

My house is filled with art.  Posters, vintage paintings, even original illustrations from my own books.  My biggest complaint is that we don’t have enough wall space!  But I believe the eye stops "seeing" art after a while, so I change things up often.  My office was no different.  I wanted all new things to look at and inspire me.  After carefully storing original art in old suitcases, I went shopping around my house.  I found all kinds of neat things to frame.

A few things stayed in my office.  One is the poster for Hollins University, from Ruth Sanderson’s picture book Papa Gatto.  The wall color was inspired by the background of this poster.  [It’s a wide shot, click on the photo.]  The odd red and yellow thing hanging next to the poster is an old tin "driving" toy.  The "hood" makes a perfect magnet board.

I also kept this Eric Carle Museum of the Picture Book poster from the Margaret Wise Brown illustrators show I attended in 2005.  The scene is from The Golden Egg Book, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, one of my favorite mid-century artists. 

One summer at Hollins, I found a large folder of mint-condition farm animal prints by Leonard Weisgard, meant for a child’s room.  The prints are hanging in our den, breakfast nook, and kitchen.  The folder was too charming to put away, so I framed it, too. 

My inspiration board also stayed.  Lately I’ve been making vintage-style jewelry and hanging the pieces on the tack board.  They look like art, don’t you think?

For more than 30 years, I’ve collected vintage prints, magazines, magazine covers, postcards, and other ephemera, much of it related to children or children’s books.  I sifted through my files and chose images that "spoke" to me, with a palette that reflected the colors of my room.  Below is a loose, orphaned page from a huge storybook illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.  The scene is "Little Red Riding Hood."

This is a recent flea market find.  It’s a wool felt pillow cover from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.  I hung it from two small bulldog clips.

That strange-looking thing hanging from one of the dresser drawers is actually a black wooden tray.  In keeping with my Virginia heritage, there are old "linen" postcards glued to the compartments:  "The Legend of the Dogwood," "Apple Blossoms in Full Bloom," and a few with poems like, "In Old Virginia," and "Down In Virginia," which begins, "The day dawns early and lasts so long/Down in Virginia . . ."  So it seems many days in this office!

I respect the integrity of vintage ephemera and never rip the covers off old magazines.  Instead, I frame the entire magazine.  Many magazines published in the 1930s used black backgrounds–even "cheerful" periodicals like Better Homes and Gardens.  I framed two from my collection to hang above my desk:  this June 1940 Child Life . . .

. . . and this September 1931 Nature Magazine.  I love the dinosaur (tricerotops? stegasaurus?) chewing greens!

However, I do buy magazine covers.  Jessie Willcox Smith art is so collectible, I have yet to see an intact magazine with one of her covers.  This September 1932 issue of Good Housekeeping is one of my favorites (Jessie illustrated every GH cover from 1919 to 1935!)

Nothing goes to waste.  The bottom picture is the back cover of a falling-apart 1934 Child Life–it’s a publisher’s ad!  Above it in a float frame is a vintage bingo card. 

Family photographs were welcomed into my space.  My stepfather’s WWII navy portrait.  Black and white snaps of my mother.  The Great Lakes Naval Training photograph with both my father and stepfather in the same class.  Above that photo, I hung four 8 x 10 photographs, a couple of me, a favorite photo of my husband, one of my mother and her siblings at our first family reunion in 1966.

I never place my computer in front of a window.  Too distracting.  But rather than look up from my monitor at a blank wall, I hung a vignette of postcards (the original Winnie-the-Pooh at the New York Public Library is a favorite), and, from my stepfather’s document chest brought back from Japan during the War, this unusual advertising sign from Weber Tire Company, where he worked for many years (between them, my parents held three jobs, my mother sold her sewing, and they raised a truck garden).  Looking at this sign reminds me how rewarding my work life is compared to my stepfather’s. 

Whenever I makeover a room, I change the switchplate covers and the light fixture.  The original light figure in my office was a plain white globe.  I love Arts and Crafts style and bought this fixture at Lowe’s.  I think of it as art.

When I had hung the last picture, my husband came to the door of my office and said, "Aren’t you going to put a rug down in here?"  "No," I said.  I liked the wide, inviting sweep of my new floor.  You see, my office is more than just a workplace.  When a song I like comes on the radio, I get up from my task chair . . . and dance.  I dance like nobody’s watching, even though somebody is.

It’s been my pleasure showing you my new office this week!  I hope you’ve had fun and are inspired to make a few changes in your own home office.  Please take a tulip, go outside in the spring sunshine, and dance a little on the sweet green grass.