Shel Silverstein

I’d like to include posts about some of my inspirations. Feels good to share these with you lovely readers out there, and to give thanks to the folks who have influenced my writing and drawing.

First post of this kind is to Shel Silverstein, whose work inspired me to put poems and illustrations together into The Dancing Fish. The poems in that book started many years ago, as ways to entertain my two daughters and to post on my old blog. Shel Silverstein’s books influenced what I wanted: poems to make my daughters laugh (or at least smile and give a little giggle).

After I wrote poems for a few years, I put the poems aside. They remained out of sight until I had the idea to create drawings to accompany them, and all of that would be placed into a book.

Of course, a shining example had been around all along in Silverstein’s books. But I hadn’t considered such a book until last year. The long delay between writing the poems and starting the book caused me to look at the poems with fresh eyes and recall the joy of writing them.

I loved Silverstein’s silliness, his turning something around and looking at it from different angles. We’re so used to falling down, but what if it was possible to fall up? If you bent down and looked around, you’d see everything in a different way (“New World”).

And I loved the playfulness of drawings to extend the fun of the poems, and to me the magic is in the expressions of the people and animals. From scared Santa running from a hound (“Christmas Dog”) to a worried guy peering at cantaloupe through a microscope (“Nope”) to pleased animals looking at the guy in a cage (“People Zoo”) — all are drawn with such humor that you can’t help but smile, even with scared Santa. (All these poems are in Falling Up.)

Silverstein’s fun could be subversive at times. The challenge of selling hats to the peculiar people in “Headless Town.” An odd gumball machine with an eyeball in it (“Gumeye Ball”). A very strange order in a restaurant (“Who Ordered the Broiled Face?”).

He suggested that being too good would be boring. “Camp Wonderful” is described as such a nice place, but the poem’s narrator ends by firmly stating “I know I’m gonna hate it.” Instead, there’s enjoyment in at least hearing about naughty things, as the narrator of the “The Pirate” lists the dastardly deeds of Claude the pirate, then expresses the wish to sit next to Claude at dinner, presumably to hear his juicy stories.

Silverstein is directly inspirational in his “Put Something In”:

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.

A Light in the Attic, 1981

And that’s what I wanted to do with The Dancing Fish. Put something goofy into the world. An illustrated poetry book inspired not only by Silverstein, but e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, and more. A book that will hopefully bring smiles and laughs to readers.

I went in different directions with my drawing than Silverstein. I like cross-hatching as shading rather than his stippling dots. While Silverstein used black as a single color, I liked the variety of different grays in the mix. I’m not even close to Silverstein’s talent of drawing expressive faces, and I think mine are rather plain by comparison.

Youtube has fun animations of Silverstein’s poems:

“Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too”

“Sick”

“Where the Sidewalk Ends”

Children’s Book Progress

I’m very pleased on how the draft of my children’s book is moving along. As with Dancing Fish, I enjoy seeing the layout come together, in arranging text and illustrations on the pages.

These two projects have been much closer to my day job of graphic design than my previous books, in that the projects I work on for clients typically include text, photos, and graphs. These elements are arranged on the pages with the purpose of clear communication.

Same goal with the children’s book. I don’t want to crowd the pages to make reading difficult. I want the pages to have variety, in the hope of keeping readers interested.

Certainly it’s a different kind of reader. A typical project for my day job is a research report or cover for a civil engineering book. And the new book for my personal project is intended to be read with kids. I love the idea of parents reading this book to their kids. I really hope that idea comes true. I’ll keep you posted when the book is published.

For now, here’s a sample of some of the artwork in the book:

silhouettes of lion, pineapple, moon, and rhinoceros

Book Review: The Teleporter

cover for The Teleporter

The Teleporter by Lee Hall

This is an entertaining superhero story about Kurt Wiseman, who’s bumbling through life. He loves booze so much, having a hangover on a Tuesday morning is not out of the ordinary for him.

Kurt once wrote a graphic novel — One Night in New York — and that seems to be the extent of his ambition beyond drinking at his buddy Douglas’s bar. Kurt could write another graphic novel, but hasn’t made the effort. And he makes minimum effort at his job.

But when an accident happens at his place of employment, Kurt’s life is changed forever. The kind of change along the lines of Peter Parker getting bitten by a radioactive spider and Dr. Bruce Banner shot with a gamma ray. These changes dramatically transform their lives.

Kurt’s new power to teleport cracks the cycle of lazing around at his job during the day and drinking deeply at night. Along with the power, he’s transformed on an emotional level. Yes, you could just use teleporting to save the hassle of walking, but you could use it for more, namely helping people.

Kurt makes for a fun narrator, with snarky remarks and how he describes things. I especially enjoyed the first part of this novel, as the narration took the time to develop each scene. The writing became more streamlined in the middle and final parts. I realize that happens as the action picks up, but I would’ve liked a bit more meat in those scenes.

The story takes a serious message — struggling with our demons and transforming into a stronger, more selfless person — and delivers it in a playful wrapping. I had fun along the way.

*****

Check out Lee Hall’s blog for updates about his writing.

Pancake Pete

Pancake Pete said,
“You cook ’em up
and stack ’em up
so I can eat ’em up.
But if I eat too much,
I’ll throw ’em up.
I better take my time,
’cause puking pancakes would be a crime.
I’ll sit and watch the butter melt.
I’ll smell how the pancakes smelt.
I’ll watch how the maple syrup spreads
like a yummy lake over pancake beds.
Then I’ll eat ’em up right
and savor every pancake-a-licious bite!”

Building the Pyramid

A frigid weekend day outside,
so we stay inside
for games and crafts.

Melanie collects
all the toilet paper rolls,
puts them on the
living room floor,
announces she’s
going to stack a pyramid.

We watch her
and the growing structure
with amazement,
how this ordinary thing
can become
something grander.

We bought more
toilet paper rolls
to use, so the pyramid
wouldn’t suffer
the indignity
losing any of
its building blocks.

Lemon to Lime

Print

From time to time, the lemon
wished it was a lime.
The lemon said,
“You’re lucky to be a tart citrus delight.
You’re not synonymous with sour,
and you’re not used as a saying
for something that doesn’t work well.
I don’t like it when people say,
‘That car’s a lemon.’”

The lime said,
“But there’s the second part of the saying,
‘When life hands you lemons,’
the part that discusses lemonade.
Besides, to be famous,
we should’ve been oranges.
They have it really good,
since everybody loves their juice.”

“Tell me about it,”
said the grapefruit with a smirk.

Copyright © 2020 Dave Williams. Included in my book, The Dancing Fish.