Happy 150th Birthday to Beatrix Potter: conservationist, scientist, artist, author and businesswoman!

Beatrix Potter 150th birthday tribute

Today is Beatrix Potter's 150th birthday! And what a day it is in England, with celebrations, an auction selling some of her original works and a series of Royal Mail stamps depicting several of her famous characters.

Some of what inspired me to include Beatrix Potter as one of Piratess Tilly's heroes is Potter's dedication to land conservationism. With the money she made from her books, she bought the adjoining lands and farms in the Lake District of England in order to save and protect them — eventually donating 4,000 acres of land and 15 farms to the National Trust.

Piratess Tilly Potter and Darwin sample pageBeatrix Potter was also passionate about botany and specifically the study of fungi — a scientist in her own right, she developed her own theory on how fungi spores reproduced. Her scientific paper was never properly published, but scientists today still recognize her contribution to mycology.

Potter was also not only a talented artist and writer, but she was a keen businesswoman — creating and licensing the first ever literary character doll and other accompanying accessories. And, as so many know, she published her first book, The Tales of Peter Rabbit, on her own — a self-publisher! I look forward to one day visiting the Lake District and seeing for myself the beauty that inspired such a phenomenal, adventurous woman.

PIratess Tilly Beatrix Potter Picture books

And as The Adventures of Piratess Tilly is a children's picture book, I'd like to take a moment to share two children's picture books that my little one and I enjoy about Beatrix Potter: Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box by David McPhail and Beatrix Potter by Alexandra Wallner. I have also ordered this newly released book: Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Charlotte Voake. I look forward to adding it to our collection!

 Learn more about Beatrix Potter here!

Sharing Roots and Meeting Karen Watson

It is a powerful and meaningful moment to share aspects of your childhood experience with your own 4 year old daughter and husband. We recently traveled to Seattle, WA, journeyed up north to the San Juan Islands and further still to Victoria, B.C. I hadn't spent any decent amount of time in those areas in over 10 years, long before the birth of Piratess Tilly.

It was both exciting and overwhelming to witness and explore hand-in-hand with my daughter the very same docks, shorelines and boats that I had as a child. It quickly became clear how deeply rooted those formative experiences are in my psyche -- there is no doubt that Piratess Tilly was inspired by my own childhood adventures!

To top off this meaningful trip, I finally got to meet Karen Watson, the extremely talented artist behind the watercolors to Piratess Tilly. It was like meeting an old friend! We both laughed at how incredible it is that we've created two picture books without ever meeting in person or even talking on the phone -- it has been all done through email! I cannot help but feel that it is particularly special and synchronistic that we are both from the Pacific Northwest. There is no doubt, in my mind, that this has greatly influenced our bond and our work together on the Piratess Tilly series.

I feel very fortunate to have shared all of this (plus so much more in Seattle itself!) with my family and to have finally met Karen Watson -- what a remarkable summer this has been!

 

 

 

All Hands on Deck for Girl-Empowerment: My Interview with Captain Rosario Fernandez Rodriguez of El Galeón

Captain Rosario and Elizabeth Lorayne_150 rgb web.jpg May 27, 2016  Interview with Captain Rosario Fernandez Rodriguez of tall ship El Galeón docked in Newburyport, MA written by Elizabeth Lorayne.

There was magic in the air that morning of Friday, May 27th. Not only was the 16th century Spanish tall ship replica, El Galeón, in Newburyport’s harbor, but I was scheduled to meet the captain, the only female captain of a tall ship in the world. The synchronicity of this opportunity left me feeling giddy as I walked the enlivened streets of Newburyport to the ship. This special meeting was arranged by the Newburyport Custom House Maritime Museum because of my children’s picture book, The Adventures of Piratess Tilly. Piratess Tilly is the captain of her own ship and leads her crew on naturalist expeditions. It felt all too pertinent that I give a copy of the book to a real female captain. 

Boarding El Galeón, walking topside, past the hundreds of salt water infused lines, and simultaneously ducking while stepping over the lip of the doorway; immediately sent me back to my formative years sailing and boating 60 miles northeast of Seattle, WA in the San Juan Islands. Upon meeting Captain Rosario Fernandez Rodriguez, I immediately felt a kinship, while her gracious confidence reminded me of my task at hand.

Once seated on the wooden benches in the galley, I presented her with my book. Her eyes lit up at the cover showing young Piratess Tilly at the helm of her own tall ship. Rosario immediately related to the many purposes of the book. She loved the poetry and the art, but mostly she loved the girl-empowerment and the educational features of Piratess Tilly and her crew’s life aboard the ship.

Tucked inside the book I had a few questions I hoped Rosario would be willing to answer. Little did I know we would speak for the next two hours, discussing her own childhood sailing and some of her experiences becoming a female captain.

Was there a specific moment from your childhood that contributed directly to your desire to work on and eventually captain a tall ship?

Rosario grew up in Arcos de la Frontera, Spain, where her family lived some 300ft from a lake. It was on this lake that her passion for sailing was born. When Rosario was a child, her father and his friends often sailed a 420 sailboat,

“I remember being seated on to the top of the box for the keel and I remember perfectly the color of the hull, and also the shape of the sail completely, full of wind. I remember that I liked it a lot.”

From that formative moment she seized the opportunity to sail her father’s friends windsurfing board. She didn’t know how to sail, but she persevered and managed to sail across the lake. When she reached the other side, she didn’t know how to return against the wind, so she paddled atop the board! From that moment she knew she needed to learn how to sail properly.

Her father took his own passion for sailing and worked to build a sailing club, the Arcos Sailing Club. Rosario explained that because Arcos de la Frontera is 70 miles from the coast, it took some time to show the local community and councilmen the advantages of sailing as a sport. Her father was determined and after receiving several donated 420 sailboats from clubs on the coast, his own sailing club took flight.  Pride overfilled her eyes as she told me about the hours she spent helping him repair the boats in preparation for their club. A few years later, when she was 13, in conjunction with a club on the coast, they were ready to offer sailing lessons. Rosario quickly decided she wanted to become a certified sailing instructor, which she accomplished a few years later.

When did you decide to become a captain?

While attending courses in art history at university, Rosario spent every free moment teaching. Once she finished school, she quickly realized she was truly happiest on the water.  She then decided to make sailing her way of living, saying she,

“wanted to have my own ship, I want to charter my own ship, I want to become a captain of my ship, but I didn’t think of being a captain of a tall ship at that moment,” laughing with amusement at the major role she eventually attained.

What are your favorite aspects to both working on and captaining a tall ship?

When meeting and spending time with Rosario it is not hard to see how seriously she takes her role as captain, from how she oversees her crew, expecting them to always be maintaining the ship and learning, to her own willingness to learn,

“I like that I am all of the time teaching, I like that, but also I am all the time learning. And also I get to know many many different places and many different people. It’s also a way of knowing myself or trying to know myself and I try also to learn about everything to be a better person and captain. I try.”

What would you say to young girls who have big dreams and goals?

With the girl-empowerment aspect of The Adventures of Piratess Tilly, I was curious to hear what this real life female captain would say to young girls,

“Everything is possible if you work towards it. I mean, if you work, focusing, you can get it, you can get it.”

Rosario explained to me some of the hardships she’d experienced as a woman trying to become a captain. She often faced disbelief by boat owners, who would instead offer her jobs as a stewardess. Her perseverance and patience endured and she went from captaining a dredger ship to captaining the Nao Victoria and El Galeón. Even as our time together was coming to end, it was clear to me how important this question was to Rosario as she came back to it saying,

“If you work hard, if you focus on what you want and if you are full of what you want, you can do it. And if someone wants to restrict you, just try to smile and look to the other side and go the other way. Take the other door - the other paths - there are many, many paths. Just try another one.”

Elizabeth Lorayne is the author of the award-winning children’s picture book, The Adventures of Piratess Tilly. A native Seattleite and the granddaughter of Admiral Walter T. Griffith, she feels most at home near water, which makes living in Newburyport, MA most appropriate. She is an artist and writer, who enjoys hiking and creating art with her family. You can contact her by email ElizabethLorayne@gmail.com or through her books website PiratessTilly.com The sequel to The Adventures of Piratess Tilly, taking place on Easter Island, is due out this October.

Art Class & NPM16: Haiku Day 13

Today I held my first private art lesson with the medium being collage. The students were two sisters, ages 11 and 10. We each had a great time! Neither of them had done much art with collage before so I created a project that I felt would be a nice introduction: creating collages inspired by "energetic" and "calm" scenes or elements from nature. It was certainly fun to watch the girls work on their projects and I couldn't be more pleased with their results!

The 11 year old created her "energetic" collage using the nature elements of shooting stars and stars, as seen on the left. The 10 year old created her "calm" collage with a tree, river and sunset!

Collage Class Finished Art 3-13-16

We didn't discuss how something "energetic"or "calm" are generally portrayed in art and design as I had initially intended to, but it didn't feel necessary when I presented the pile of decorative papers and various scissors (some had scalloped blades etc.). I was also just simply curious to see how they'd react to the first assignment altogether, without too much direction. And I feel they did a splendid job!

Studio Prep for Collage Class 3-13-16

The class was so much fun and wonderfully exciting that it inspired my National Poetry Writing Month haiku:

After learning more about the girls, I'm planning an assignment around one of their passions -- illustrating and writing comic strips.  Onto the next class!

Birthday Tribute Haiku: Dr. Jane Goodall

Today is Dr. Jane Goodall's 82nd birthday. She has inspired so many, including myself. I took a primate biology class my senior year of high school and remember being awe-struck by her fearlessness, observation, brilliance, passion and perseverance. She continues to speak and share her decades of experiences in the jungle, while calling upon each of us to own our individual responsibility in caring for and protecting our environment. For those with children and teens, I encourage you to read more about Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots community action programs. It's a wonderful way to inspire our youth and to keep Dr. Goodall's spirit prominent.

We owe so much to her grace and hard work bringing the world together in the name of Conservationism. I have taken a moment today to write a haiku in honor of Dr. Goodall. It's been combined with my very first collagraph, which was inspired by a riverbed. May each of us take a moment today to meditate upon her legacy and upon the importance of fighting for Mother Nature. 

Dr-Jane-Goodall-Tribute-Birthday-Haiku

"Nature as Teacher" quote series

Nature was an important inspiration for Adventures of "Piratess" Tilly. I would like to share nature-themed quotes by famous people as well as some of my own haiku. "Nature as Teacher" is one of my personal favorite lines in the book. With that in mind, I'll start the series with this lovely quote by Shakespeare. Adventures of "Piratess" Tilly coming soon picture book, Shakespeare Quote