The folks on Portlandia call this city "the place where young people go to retire." And that's exactly what I had in mind. I moved here with $6000 and a plan to not get a job until I ran out of cash. I spent a wonderful (if a little lonely) six months painting and drawing. It was a great start. Today I want to sit down for a little bit and write about my favorite city and home.
Although the stereotypes tv's Portlandia portrays are hilarious because they ring true, the show misses the best parts of Portland. (This is fine - funny doesn't generally come from the things that are lovely in life.) I'm a Portland stereotype in more ways than just the moving here to retire. Since 2003 I've continually been un- and under-employed (except for the 2 years I lived on the East Coast where I worked my butt off.) I've taken up dumpster diving, kombucha brewing and sauerkraut fermenting. I have adopted a fad-ish diet. I bike and love yoga and don't own a car or a tv. And, come on, art with birds on it is awesome!
My number one reason for loving Portland is the flora. We get to have exciting urban living AND plants everywhere. See?! Even the police cars have flowers on them!
Here is how this has affected me:
A painting of mine after 5 years of living in Chicago.
A painting of mine after 2 years in Portland. (2005)
My number 2 reason- The books! Portland loves to read. The Multnomah County Library is AMAZING! I seriously believe this is the best library system ever. And of course there's Powell's Books (my current part-time employer - thanks Powell's, love ya!) AND Beverly freakin' Cleary grew up here. You can live on Klickitat Street!
This lovely print is by Etsy genius and Portlander,
Number 3- Authenticity. I've found that people here are very interested in being real. It was intimidating at first - this East Coaster was used to a lot of pretense. But now I love it. (Maybe this should be number 1? I think it's that vague, hard to explain thing that makes Portland Portland.) At parties I'd much rather talk to you about the chickens you're raising in your backyard than the impressive people you know. Wouldn't you?!
This gal lives in the courtyard of my boyfriend's old apartment building.
Some other reasons:
The food and drink- it's true, we eat good here, like insanely good.
The artists - we have some really great ones! I mean, really, the people in general. So many good people live here!
The mountains and the ocean are both only about an hour away.
And "the river." That's what people say in the summer - "let's go to the river." There are about five different rivers they could have in mind. It doesn't really matter though, they're all lovely.
The Sandy River last summer.
Did I mention the trees?
So, happy anniversary Portland! Me and you make a great couple!
(Perhaps this post was also meant to inspire friends and family to come visit. You should come! I will have a guest room for you starting May 1st! We'll take pictures of trees and eat from food carts and read books and have so much fun you'll wish you lived here too!)
I've been thinking a lot about gender inequality lately. I was raised by a highly intelligent, high powered, feminist single mother. I grew up thinking, sure things were bad before but hey, it's the nineties, our moms figured all that stuff out for us! I am constantly surprised at how very wrong I was. I see inequality everywhere I look.
Of course there's the VIDA count which came out a few weeks ago and showed that most magazines are publishing women writers at a rate of about 30% or less of the total.
Oh beloved New Yorker how sad you make me!
(As an illustrator, I'm desperately curious about how these numbers would look for my field. I'm pretty sure the percentages of female illustrators represented is even lower. Does anyone know of any studies on this?)
Yesterday I was watching and enjoying TED talks and noticed an upsetting discrepancy between search terms. If you compare these two photos you'll see that when I searched using the term "ingenious" of the 16 videos shown only one was a talk by a woman and when I searched using "beautiful" of the 16 videos shown eleven were talks by women. WTF?! Even in smarty pants TED world the paradigm holds that women are given recognition for beauty over intelligence. Sad.
Or there's the "Storytellers 2013" calendar put out by Balladier Press that pushed me over the edge today and inspired this post.
3 out of the 12 featured authors are female. If it had been 4 or 5 out of 12 I might have said to myself - one can't expect exact balance of genders in things, sometimes there's bound to be more of one sex than the other. But 25% is just too small a representation to be anything other than discrimination (perhaps unintentional discrimination, but discrimination all the same. Also, hello all white?! But that's not on topic. But seriously?!) Really sad. (Although, yay Kate DiCamillo! I love everything she does.)
Watch this Sheryl Sandberg video to see how poorly women are faring in the worlds of business and politics. She points out that likability fosters success but women are disliked for being successful. Sad and impossible. (But she also gives some interesting ideas on what individuals can do to move us in the right direction.)
And lastly, LEGOS!!! I adore LEGOS. I had loads of LEGOS as a kid. I was basically this girl.
Watch this video to see Anita Sarkeesian lay down exactly what has gone so wrong with the LEGO brand since the 1980's and why their new LEGO FRIENDS for girls is so wrongheaded. (Be sure to watch Part 2 as well!)
There are less and less things for kids that aren't gendered. I see this all the time at the bookstore I work in. Both in what is sold and what shoppers are looking for. Very sad indeed.
Oh world, we can do so much better than this! Perhaps if we all start (or continue) noticing and pointing out these inequalities when we see them our collective tolerance for it will be lowered and changes will happen. I hope so anyway.
Now I have to get back to work creating female characters that are successful and likable and live in books that both boys and girls are meant to read!
Last night I attended SHARE, an event organized by local writers Kathleen Lane and Margaret Malone which brings together a small group of artists to create in a shared space. Artists have two hours to create from a one-word prompt and then we share. The prompt was Collapse.
I think this image was the best of the bunch I came up with.
The space is really lovely. I'm always jealous of the writers at this event - so neat and tidy with all their work created on their laps.
Last night we had an extra special treat because one of the artists created with chocolate and whiskey! The smell of melted chocolate filled the room while we worked, it was wonderful. And boy was that collapse of cake and melted chocolate delicious.
Really an all around great night. Thanks Kathleen and Margaret!
My local chapter of SCBWI hosted a little gathering last Saturday for us folks who wear two hats in kids publishing - as author AND illustrator. It was really lovely. I love to hang out with other people who love kids books and I love to talk and hear about kids books - it was the perfect Saturday!
When a bunch of illustrators sit around listening to a presentation, a lot of doodles get made. Here's just a couple of mine from the day.
One of the themes that kept coming up was a comparison to all parts of children's publishing and dating. Apparently finding an editor, agent, publisher, etc is "just like dating." UGH! Dating is the worst! But I am trying to take the positive message away from that analogy. Not every person you go on a date with will love you or be right for you - that doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. So it goes in publishing - not everyone will like your work but that doesn't mean it's bad work. And not every publisher is right for you. One just needs to find the right match and let the magic happen!
IN other news - As of 4:30 this morning I have a new baby niece!!! Hooray! Can't wait to head to head out east to meet her!
Last night I went to see my friend Martha give a reading at the Blue Monk. Here's a little sketch I made of the musical act in between readers.
Martha read a piece she wrote about her recent appendectomy. You can read the full piece here: The Full Appendix. I recommend that you do. I love her writing - it's so vulnerable that it's a little uncomfortable to read, but in the best, most moving sort of way. It's gorgeous stuff. She inspires me to be more brave. Thanks Martha!
Today I am watching ALL the kid president episodes while I draw. (This is one of the secret tricks of being an illustrator - you can watch stuff while you draw! I also watch loads of TED talks. So great. I highly recommend Brene Brown's videos. Go here: brene brown on TED )
But back to Kid President. Have you not seen him yet?! I love love love this kid! He's imploring everyone to be more awesome. How? By being nice to people, by dancing, by being creative, by eating cupcakes and even by being a party! Watch this one! It's only 3 minutes long.
My little magazine - Tater Totter- is here! It's a variety magazine for kids; with stories, poems, activities, and a comic. Most of it's written and illustrated by me, but I'm quite lucky to have two poems by the brilliant children's musician and writer - Benjamin Boyce. And one of the stories is written and illustrated completely by kids! (Thanks Riley and Penny! You are the best!)
I had so much fun making this little guy. I wanted to create something I could put out into the world faster than a picture book (which take years!) It's a fabulous way for me to practice writing and drawing for kids.
Here are my little friends Jack and Oli reading Tater Totter. They loved it! I could see just a couple parts which were a little boring or confusing to them - what a great learning tool for me! Mostly they seemed to love it and every time I've visited them since, Tater Totter was still being discussed and was out in their play space (not tucked away on some bookshelf, forgotten.) Success!
Here's the drawing activity Oli really enjoyed doing. I love it!
The folks at Quimby's have this to say about Tater Totter:
"Gleeful new zine for kids - stories, activities, games, maniacal illustrations and a love poem to pickles n' cheese."
Wow, am I super lucky to live in bike friendly Portland, OR! (The above photo was shot by me on my ride just this morning - it was a beautiful one.) And I'm super duper lucky to call bicycle activist Elly Blue a friend. I'm so glad she's out there making the world a better place.
Tonight she's put together an awesome line up of folks for a big reading of small press bicycle books.
"Join April Streeter, author and publisher of Women on Wheels and
Elly Blue, author of Everyday Bicycling and publisher of the Taking the
Lane feminist bicycle zines, for a fun evening of bicycle and small
April will share her motivation for writing a book for and about women who bike, and multiple Taking the Lane contributors will read excerpts from or talk about their art, words, and excitement about diverse aspects of cycling."
And I might pass out before it happens but somehow I've agreed to be one of those Taking the Lane contributors talking about their art! Ack, terrifying public speaking here I come. So, honestly don't come - because less people will be better for me, but if you must it's at Powell's Books on Hawthorne and starts at 7:30p. Wish me luck!