Sorry I’ve been so quiet all spring and summer. I’ve been busy — state testing, prom, honor society induction, professional development, graduation, finals, ducks (shoutout to our ag teacher for taking the noisy, destructive little SOBs off my hands), travel, side hustles, curriculum writing, and last but certainly not least, painting an elaborate mural on all four walls of my classroom.
I finally wrapped up the mural on Monday. It was a long process that began last spring, when I wandered into my superintendent’s office and asked how much trouble I’d be in if I painted literary characters all over the walls of my classroom. She basically gave me carte blanche and waited to see what would happen next. About 103 hours of actual work later, this was what I came up with:
I still have a truffula forest made out of pool noodles and tissue paper to mount on a particle-board stand, a couple of giant IKEA leaves to install near my desk, and a few more strings of fairy lights to hang on not-quite-finished bulletin boards, but I’ll post all that when I do an official classroom reveal in August.
My goal with this project is to remind my kids of how they felt about reading when they were little — back when they were exploring the Hundred Acre Wood and having wild rumpuses and sneaking through Hogwarts under an Invisibility Cloak instead of being assigned a million pages of stuff they didn’t really care about. I want to recapture some of that joy and maybe get them excited about reading again. We’ll see how it goes.
As promised a couple of weeks ago, here are photos from the mural I completed in October on the east side of Tee Pee Curios in Tucumcari, New Mexico. I still can’t get over how fast and easy that neon technique is.
Spending a couple of weeks in Tucumcari this year has confirmed some things for us. First, it showed us we’re definitely on the right track with our long-term goal, which is to build a tiny house in northeastern New Mexico and retire there. The people in that area seem really nice, and the town is just about perfect in terms of size and proximity to larger cities and wilderness areas.
Second, the enthusiastic responses I’ve gotten to my murals have shown me this might make a nice cottage industry, so after New Year’s, I’m planning to take out an ad in the service directory part of the paper and see if I can rustle up a few mural-painting gigs in Southeast Missouri or Southern Illinois. Even small projects would bring in a nice chunk of extra income to save toward the tiny house of my dreams.
It’s good to have a long-term goal and a specific plan for reaching it. Even if something happens to throw us off-track, there’s never a down side to retiring debts as quickly as possible, learning new skills, or saving money for things you really need.
One day in the not-too-distant future, I’ll share our six-year plan for paying off our debts and putting ourselves in a position to make our very specific dreams come true. It’s a pretty good to-do list, even if you’re not planning to build a micro-house in the high desert.
It’s been an artsy sort of weekend. I made a double batch of hot-process soap yesterday and had enough time left to paint the prototype for my next mural, which is going on the side of Tee Pee Curios on Route 66 in Tucumcari the first week in October:
I’m looking forward to that project, although I’m a little antsy about having to work so high up off the ground. This mural is going on the side of a building that’s quite a bit taller than the garage walls I painted last spring. We’ll see if the magic of New Mexico is powerful enough to override my acrophobia.
I’ve also been using every spare minute to add more book illustrations. I’m looking at about 28 images by the time I finish. Here are the most recent ones:
Each image precedes a chapter and represents something significant from that chapter. You’ll have to read the novel to find out what a neon sign, a journal, a letter on motel stationery, a clothesline, a guitar pick, a burning cigarette, a snow cone, a milagro, a toy camera, a gopher snake, a seventh-grader’s biology assignment and a replica of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey have to do with the story.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I’m about four illustrations away from being able to submit this thing for publication, although I’m sure I’ll spend at least another week fussing over it before I work up the nerve to send it out into the world.
Yes, I’ve subjected this blog to a shameful degree of neglect this summer. Here’s what I’ve been working on:
That’s right, kids. I’m about an eyelash away from being ready to publish Greetings from Coldwater. I’m anticipating a fall release on the Kindle version and — God willing — a paperback edition in time for Christmas. I shot the trailer above on and around Route 66 in New Mexico last spring, and I’ve been dinking with the novel ever since we got back.
When I started this project, I swore I wouldn’t self-publish, but the publishing industry has changed so much since then that self-publishing now requires less financial risk and far less annoyance than shopping a manuscript. I can go through Amazon to self-publish electronic and paperback editions without spending a dime. All I’m out is time — and less of it than I’d spend writing queries and copying manuscripts and standing in line at the post office to send them to people who may not bother reading them anyway. A big publishing house could probably sell more copies, but I don’t have the patience to read a thousand rejection slips before I find the right publisher. If some big-deal publisher reads it and likes it, we’ll talk.
I’ve spent most of the past 24 hours formatting the manuscript to Amazon’s specs, designing a cover, reskinning TumbleweedMotel.com, printing a proof, and uploading the trailer to YouTube.
I’ve also been busy drawing illustrations for the past couple of weeks:
Watch this space. I’ll keep you posted on the process and all the stuff I learn as I go.