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I've Been Cooking a Book

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

OK, OK. I missed Sunday and Tuesday. What is it, Wednesday?

I've been busy.

See, in addition to blogging, I have a real job. And that job occasionally  has deadlines that I try to meet. All but one or two, I hit right on the head. But this was a big deadline. April 1, 2011. Have your next book done.

In self-flagellatory full-disclosure mode, I must add that the original deadline was April 1, 2009. Through Bad Time Management, Life Intervening, and a spectacular case of Mission Creep, I missed that'n clean.

This one, I made.

 25 chapters, 80,000 words, 320 pieces of art.  It works out to an illustration about every 650 words. 

Insane, I know, but I like to look at pictures, and I figure my audience does too. When I pick up a book, I flip through it back to front and if I like the pictures I'm much more likely to buy it. Ditto if there are lots and lots of pictures. I like pictures. About that Mission Creep...

This is what 320 pieces of art looks like in my studio. Each painting or drawing you can see has about ten more under it. Stacked art.

 It flopped over onto every flat surface. Sketches had to be torn out of the stacked sketchbooks; paintings had to be ripped out of the spiral-bound field notebooks. RRRRRIPPPP, arrgh.  I had to get used to that terrible sound when I did Letters from Eden, so it wasn't such a big deal to tear everything apart this time. As I ripped the pages, I repeated a mantra: Their highest purpose is The Book. Their highest purpose is The Book.

It helped.

Vultures and ospreys and mourning doves, hummingbirds and big woodpeckers, titmice and chickadees and bluebirds...26 species in 25 chapters, each one devoted to the strange and wonderful interactions I've had with these birds. Is it any wonder my entire studio is now taken up by flat files? There's a teeny little corner by the big windows where I create the things, but 90% of my floor space is storage. I'm like an Art Squirrel.

 Yes, that's Charlie in the lower right corner. The book ends with him, my avian familiar/succubus.

 Chimney swifts, Carolina wrens, starlings, swallows, phoebes, cranes, tanagers, sparrows, grouse, redtails. So many images, so many birds I have come to know. If I've studied them, managed them, thought a whole lot about them, fixed them or been their momma, they're in the book.

All the paintings had to be organized, catalogued, evaluated for insurance purposes, then packed into envelopes by chapter...

wrapped in plastic, taped securely...

packed into wooden crates, the top one made for me many years ago by someone very dear, and saved through the decades until it found its purpose once again.

 As I write, these crates are in a Big Brown Truck somewhere  between Columbus and Hartford, bound for the offices of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Boston. I hope my beloved editor Lisa White has a Phillips head screwdriver in her office, 'cuz she's gonna need one. Meanwhile, I've been neurotically checking their progress online, using tracking numbers and UPS's web site. They never call, they never'd think they could text me once in awhile.

Yes, I've been cookin' up a little something for you. It's got to bake now for about a year, but come next spring, the Marsh Crone**  will start to brew again, and you'll sniff the air and know that the book is here.

By then, we will have settled on a name for it. It takes a village, you know. I have to have something left to procrastinate over, right?

Actual Zick outfit, captured by Bill of the Birds: RainCrows hoodie and purely redonk KMart apron, bought for Phoebe the Kitchen Elf. Afraid I've let fashion slip a bit further than usual while I've been working, too. Cackle!  Oh, and look. I have a hunch-backed assistant, and there's The Bacon in the lower right corner, hoping I'll drop a piece of chicken.

Cross your fingers for their safe delivery, sometime Thursday afternoon. 
And thanks for your good wishes.

UPDATE: 12:41 PM Wednesday: Departure scan, New Staunton, PA. 12:42 PM: In transit to Boston. Squee!

**from my favorite book ever, The Marsh Crone's Brew by Ib Spang Olsen


Congratulations; it looks wonderful!

Posted by Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 8:15 AM

I am so excited for you! and I can't wait to see the new book ;-)

I can't wait. Remember, we'd like to have an audio version and prints for sale as well. We want it all. :)

Wayne, PA

Posted by Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 8:21 AM

I can't wait to see this new book, Julie. Quite exciting stuff.

And I LOVE the photo of you and Phoebe in the kitchen.

Congrats Julie. Can't wait for the book and by golly I plan to meet you on my next trip to SE Ohio!

Cannot wait to see the finished product!!

Ooh! Can't wait for he book!
I think you should use that last photo for the book's author bio page.

Okay, this last photo is hilarious. what a team. I can't wait for the book.

All this paper and plywood seems charmingly old school. I might have thought by now you'd just run everything through a big scanner and e-mail it to Boston.

oooo, I like Lynne's idea of having that last photo as your cover flap photo!! Only thing missing is Charlie on your shoulder.

I'm so excited for you...and for all of us!!

Wha? You don't think the black-and-white headshot of me looking erudite with my chin on my fist would work? Wait, I could be smoking a pipe.

I have another one I like where I'm holding a cricket in a tweezers and there are three chimney swifts climbing up the front of my shirt. Except it would need a great big caption, because the swifts look more like bats.

I loved Letters from Eden, so I am definitely looking forward to your new book, Julie! Are you going to do any book signings when it comes out? I hope you will come to upstate New York!

Hooray! Cannot wait to see what wonders you've cooked up to follow the beauteous words and images of Letters from Eden. We'll be moved by then, so I hope your travels and signings take you to the Pacific Northwest. Thanks for the thousands of hours of wordsmithing and art-making.

Congratulations on meeting your new-and-improved deadline. Doubtless the mission creep you described just means the book will be all the more amazing!! I'm reading Letters from Eden now and loving every word of it. So, when are you going to start the next book? You know the one about The Bacon that you've dropped hints about through the years... Then again, maybe you'd like to have a life again for awhile before launching into another Massive Project?

Posted by Diane Borders March 23, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Can't wait! Loved Letters from Eden

Posted by Musicmom March 23, 2011 at 12:02 PM

It's a good thing they don't have a live-stream UPS parcel-cam, or you wouldn't get anything done. Let alone well done. Well done! Congratulations!

In a corner of my bedroom, is my sanctuary. An over-stuffed robins-egg blue chair is positioned at the window. Stretched across the back is the afghan I bought for my mother 30 years ago. Wedged between it and the window is a small dark wicker table with a surface big enough for a coaster ( strong coffee in the a.m. and a glass of chilled white in the evening), my iPad (for my music!) and a copy of your book. Many a day I have sat there with only a few minutes to spare and looked through it. Now it will have a companion--thanks!

Hope Houghton-Mifflin realizes what a treasure they have on their hands... and compensates you accordingly!

Whoopee!! What terrific news = it's so exciting for you and for us. Congratulations! Can hardly wait another year until it's available...

HOLY COW, you ship ORIGINAL ART. Well, it's going to be a glorious book, can't wait!

Finishing a book--many congratulations! You look a perfect Marsh Crone--hart

3/23/2011 5:16:00 PM IN TRANSIT TO HARTFORD, CT US

I am just speechless at the output all crammed into those photos! It's going to be a long wait coming for us, now that we are all appetized. I agree with Heather, all of it.

Congrats to the max! Enjoy long spring meanderings (a lot freer) into your woods, across the meadows and down the road. And bring us something back! Leslie Y.

Posted by Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Heartfelt congratulations! Excellent news. Only two years late? That's EARLY!! Very much look forward to seeing the result.

Nick, from Ottawa

Posted by Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Looking forward to it!

Grinning like an idiot. The story, the cooking shot, the tracking compulsion...all of it. Totally comprehensible considering what's in that delivery truck. Gently, UPS!

EEEEEE HOW EXCITING!!! I cherish my (autographed!) copy of Letters from Eden and have already given two other copies as gifts. Can't wait for the next installment of bird stories! (And funny enough, I was just looking at some of your BWD covers today and wondering when you might make another artwork update. This is the mother them all!) Major congratulations!

(P.S. I second the call for merchandise--maybe ladies' skivvies to accompany the woodcock boxers? ;)

What a surprise, to hear that there's another book in the making! I haven't read Gardens of Eden yet, but it's on my list, and I knew this new book was on my list the second I heard about it. Good luck!

I cannot believe - no, yes, I do, but *only* you - Blogger Paramount - would reference Ib Spang Olsen's The Marsh Crone's Brew !! (I used to always say "Sprang") And have the costume too. Can't afford that book for love nor $, but I can look forward to your magnum opus. Very very excited. May I manage your mid-Atlantic/verge of mid-West Book Tour?

I am concerned that your UPS truck is heading into some nasty weather.

Your 24-Hour Librarian Dallas

Posted by DallasD March 23, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Ah Dallas you make me larf! I got The Marsh Crone's Brew as a little child and now I read it to my babies...think I'll read it to them tonight, in fact. It is the perfect brink-of-spring book. I am growing up to be a Marsh Crone.

Oh, good, I needed a tour manager. Book tours for natural history essay books, no matter how lavishly illustrated, are shoestring at best, so suggestions on venues for talks and bookstores for signings are always welcome. String a couple of events together and it starts to look viable.


Come and get it. We'll meet you there.

Sigh. Such a long wait. Congrats! A walk down that country road with the Bacon sounds in order now!

Congratulations on your tremendous accomplishment-and your nerves of steel:-) Can't wait to pore over your newest creative treasure.

Politics and Prose ( in Washington, DC, is a fantastic venue...and it just so happens that my boyfriend works in the receiving department there and said he'd be happy to recommend you to the right people :) Plus, Rock Creek Park, right nearby, is a great spot for spring warblers ....combo book signing/bird walk??

Congratulations, Julie! What an accomplishment! I, too, can't wait to see what you've cooked up. And I love that fun photo....

Posted by Donna (Iowa) March 23, 2011 at 10:11 PM

Love the photo of the stack of Art

Looking forward to your new book !!

Ron and Priscilla


Last Scan: 3/24/2011 9:29:00 AM DELIVERED BOSTON, MA US
Delivered To: BOSTON, MA US
Delivery Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011
Delivery Time: 9:29 AM
Delivery Location: FRONT DOOR
Signed By: CCC
Carrier: UPS
Service: GROUND
UPS Tracking Number: K1921336020

Congratulations, Julie! That is some mountain of paintings! Always envious of artists who can crank out such a mass of work.

Wow Julie you made my day!! I've been rereading Letters from Eden, espec this winter, and hoping you would write another book!! YAY!! The drawings look beautiful, when I turn my computer screen sideways!! What a lot of work and oh so organized!! So looking forward to it and the reading pleasure to come!!

Shame on me for not paying attention to the comments section. I was downtown today, not far from HM's offices. I'd happily have been a one-woman welcome wagon for all your art and prose, had I known how close I was to its arrival time! As it turns out, I was around the corner at the Boston Athenaeum, enjoying the pen and pencil works of Edward Gorey, right about when all your hard work found its way to your editor's office. Something poetic in that, I'm guessing.

Book tour stops should include a talk to the Friends of the Mt. Auburn Cemetery, don't you think? Maybe we could round up some Drumlin Farm/Audubon folks for a two-fer group deal.

I'll be there with bells on!


Posted by Anonymous March 24, 2011 at 11:21 AM

What fun seeing the piles of pictures and wonder what other birds are hidden below. 2012 is looking up! Susan E

Posted by Anonymous March 24, 2011 at 3:51 PM

it's about time.
Slacking as usual, it isn't like you have anything else to do.

Congratulations Julie

How wonderful...what an amazing project. I can imagine how fearful you must be, packing off all those original pieces of your heart, blindly trusting, and sending them across the country to the care of another. I published my first book last year - a heart project - so know the work for you is just beginning. That you will be tested time and time again throughout the refinement of the editing process. I look forward to seeing the results!

I'm so excited! I've recently found you and am having a wonderful time exploring your site. Thank you for sharing your life and love of nature.

I agree about the jacket photo; what Murr said; and we'll be waiting at Raymond's.

Congratulations! Must be a bit like giving birth, huh? I can't wait for the new member of the family's first birthday. I'll be more than ready by then.

And by the way - here's a GREAT spot for a book reading/signing in NH.
It just so happens I'd be able to attend this one! :)

I've just hand-delivered Letters from Eden to South Africa, where it was received with much delight. Thanks for personalizing the greetings - it made the book even more special. Will definitely look out for the next one!

Posted by Merran Phillips April 15, 2011 at 9:07 AM
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