Doodling on the Movie Set

Much doodling was done during the monkey mayhem

Did I mention I do extra work on the side?

Writing and illustrating can be such a lonely business at times. I’ve worried that if I didn’t get out once in a while, I’d end up talking to an old volleyball or something. Extra work seems to fit the bill for getting me out of the house and the nice part is that I can choose my days. If you like sci-fi, I have probably been on a TV show you’ve seen recently. Vancouver, BC seems to be the capital of sci-fi TV shows of late. This is thanks, in part, to the ol’ X-files (of which I am a fan). Some of the current shows where you could catch a blur of me in the background are Fringe, V, Secret Circle, Hellcats, Life Unexpected, and Stargate. I am usually an executive-type passerby, a scientist, a mom, and an FBI cop (several times and once with a gun!). I’m in a Campbell’s Soup commercial which I’ve never seen (let me know if you ever see me!). I’m also in several movies including The Big Year,  Spooky Buddies, 50/50, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and a few I can’t remember at the moment.
     While being on the set is somewhat exciting (ok, it’s actually rarely exciting except if they get you to do something fun like scream your head off or act hypnotized), it’s the long-long waits in the Extras tent that I enjoy most. For one thing, it gives me the opportunity to yak my head off to the poor soul next to me all day. I can also indulge in huge amounts of reading time. But the thing I love the most of all, is whipping out my sketchbook and doodling my head off. These uninterrupted hours of doodling have served me well, as evidenced by lovely cartoon (look at the top of this page!) of the kids hanging onto the yellow banner. I did this sketch over the course of a couple long days on the set of The Rise of the Apes. I had a lot of looky-loos peeking over my shoulder to ask me about my drawing. This is always a good ploy to draw fellow extras in for a nice chat. Some of my nicest Facebook buds are folks I’ve met while doing extra work. Many are very talented actors hoping for the big break, but there’s a whole whack of them, like me, who have other stuff on the go. I’ve met other visual artists, fashion designers, singers, and a master knitter (he loves long waits in the Extras tent!) A couple of the sketches I’ve worked on, while on set, include the illustrations you see below.
     By the way, I am the second monkey (I was CGI-ed) from the left, on the second level glass balcony, in the ‘scary discovery’ atrium scene in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Poor Grace is no expert on broom riding!

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Growing Up with Harry Potter

This Moaning Myrtle is off to haunt the bathrooms at the Deathly Hallows movie premier.

Last Thursday, my daughter and a group of her friends went, in costume, to the midnight movie premier, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2.

As my daughter Amanda and her pal Hannah spent the afternoon digging through old Halloween boxes from the attic and sewing paper Hogwarts crests to their costumes, it was poignant for me to witness both the final chapter of the Harry Potter books/movies and that of my daughter’s childhood. You see Amanda just graduated from high school last month and this September she’s off to explore her future in university.

Ok I know am getting sentimental here. But no wait, not about my daughter’s growing up; I mean Harry Potter. I LOVE those books. The first time I got wind of Harry Potter, was from a little seven year old girl I used to do after-school care for. Her name was Krista and, boy, was she a precocious reader. Most kids were just starting to figure their way through Junie B. Jones at that age. Anyway, Krista always had her nose in that book. After school, when my daughters wanted to play with her, she just blocked them out and kept reading (think Julian Smith’s I’m Reading a Book!). Because of this snub, my older daughter Amanda decided she hated Harry Potter. This of course all changed a couple years later.  Since then our family has all been mad for Potter.  This is evidenced in the family photos of all of us dressed in witch costumes for numerous Halloweens to come.

I, myself, read the first three books in rapid succession, and then got through many a gruelling Christmas craft fair season by listening to the voice talents of Jim Dale on the audio books while beading away. I even coerced my book group into reading Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. Bewilderingly, not everyone in book group appreciated it. “Come on,” I said trying to play the vocabulary card, “Are you not at least thrilled to have learned new words like gobsmacked and snog?” It’s hard to be a middle-aged Harry Potter fan.

So ok, my kids can own the claim that they grew up with Harry Potter, but I too have been under its spell all these years. An athiest recently asked me why I fancy myself an agnostic. The answer has to do with faith; “I want believe that there’s magic somewhere in the universe…and I want to believe there could really be a place out there like Hogwarts.”


(PS) Krista is a talented artist now. Check out her illustrations/art/crafts in the Get Thee to a Nunnery link

(PPS) Check out Julian Smith’s I’m reading a Book!


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Red Ink

Sometimes its good, healthy even, for a writer just starting out, to get smacked with a reality brick.  Recently, I just ‘finished’ my first early chapter book manuscript.  I have a wonderful writing teacher, Ruth Kozak whom has an impressive background in publishing and writing, so I asked her (for a fee) if she could edit it for me.  She went over the manuscript with a fine tooth comb and in addition wrote three pages of comments for me.  She did an awesome job but what an awakening for me!  What I thought of as an ‘almost there’ manuscript was actually a piece in need of many revisions.  While I will not make all the revisions suggested, I have some work to do.  Yes, my beginner’s writer ego may of taken a hit, but I am always grateful for the chance to learn something new.  Seeing my writing through an expert’s eyes offers me the window to do just that.

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Gumboot Books :-(

I was saddened, last week, to hear that Gumboots Books, will no longer be in operation by March 1st.  In their announcement to SCBWI Canada West, the cause is stated to be due to the double whammy of a poor economic climate and some unexpected health issues.

Gumboot Books is the brain child of Crystal Stranaghan and Jared Hunt.  I got to know them through their manuscript workshops and Web Presence course.  I have benefited from their expertise in editing  and especially from their impressive understanding of the non-techie mind.  This website would not have been if  it hadn’t been for their wonderful hand-holding style of teaching.  For the past year, I have sent (and still do) Crystal many a panicked technical query regarding website building -to which I always get a reply.  I am so grateful she puts up with me!  I now see from all the responses from fellow SCBWI CanWest members, that gratefulness is a sentiment that many of us share towards Crystal and Jared.  They have given so much to aspiring and published writers in our community.

Crystal and Jared’s Gumboot Books may be coming to an end, but I also hope it will mark a new beginning.  They are recently just married and they continue to offer their workshops and courses.  I pray that they get the time they need to heal and that the health issues will soon be behind them.  They are a cracker-jack team and I  think Gumboot Books is the first of many fine literary accomplishments to come.

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An Artsy SCBWI Get Together

Last Sunday, I got together with three other SCBWI Canada West illustrators for our first ever meeting.  We met at a friendly coffee bar on Main Street called the Grind Gallery and Coffee Bar.  Shantala, Nuala, Alissa, and I shared stories about where we went to school, where we worked, and the challenge of balancing the three big ‘C’s of female artistdom.  That is:  Creativity, Career, and Kids. Ok, so kids starts with a ‘k’.  It’s close enough, phonetically speaking.  The only thing we didn’t talk about was men, some of which we hope to see at the next meeting on Sunday, Feb 27th.

We also decided to put together a Facebook group which Shantala has since set up in record time.  Shantala has also had an illustration blog up for SCBWI Canada West members.  Every month there’s an inspiring prompt to spur members to contribute their artful take on the suggestion.  February’s prompt is: First Love. The website is called, Go Bananas! To check it out, click on the link to the right.

All in all, we were very pleased to make each other’s acquaintance.  I am already inspired to have been in the company of such artistic young women.   I’m looking forward to future meetings.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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