Sunday, November 9, 2014

SCBWI - Kansas 2014 Fall Conference

SCBWI – Kansas 2014 Fall Conference

I feel like I imagine other writers feel after a day of exposing your dreams and fears – depleted and energized at the same time. As a person who spends countless hours working alone, voluntarily jumping into a large field of people and then forcing intentional “reach outs” to strangers is exhausting. However, all of this is mitigated by the fact that this “field of people” is a kind and understanding group. Plus, there is comfort knowing that most of the other “introverts” feel the exact same way.

Gratitude is what I walked away with most though. Grateful to be part of this group, grateful I have terrific critiques of my work and grateful for a new day to restore my energy to keep working away at a craft I love.

Feeling like you belong to a cause that is bigger than yourself is awe-inspiring and empowering - writing for children.

***Thanks to Sue Gallion and the whole volunteer staff at the SCBWI Kansas group. Plus, thanks to Jennifer Mattson, Heather Alexander, Karen Grencik, Jennifer Brown, Bridget Heos, Brett Wright, Brad Sneed and Sharon Draper for the useful advice and guidance.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Welcome Home the Heroes

Welcome Home the Heroes Parade

Cindy Paul

Our treasured Veterans allow us to work and play with the knowledge that our freedom is protected. There is no possible way our gratitude can equal this service. However, St. Louis expressed its thanks in a way that is close exactly one year ago. First, they honored the Fallen Soldiers who gave the ultimate gift. Next, they threw a party! Finally, they found ways to instill hope, build confidence and provide opportunities to enjoy the freedom our Veterans worked so hard to safeguard.

On the steps of the Soldiers Memorial in St. Louis late on the evening of January 27, 2012 at 9:11, friends and family gathered to pay homage to the soldiers who died while serving our Country. The reading of over 6000 names broke through the quiet night air one at a time followed by a single bell toll. The vigil lasted all night. Light rain and cold temperatures could not stop the resolve of those reading or those grieving. The long somber hours remembering family and friends who lost their lives gave way to a frigid but bright morning.

On January 28, 2012, St. Louis then hosted a parade that traveled north on Market Street from Kiener Plaza to Union Station. Close to 100 floats, bands and groups marched up Market. The participants were Veterans from all branches of the military and from all eras. Although, the focus was to honor returning Vets from the post 9/11 wars, representatives from Desert Storm, the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II walked proudly. Families of Veterans joined as well. Nearly 1000 Veterans and their families participated. Approximately 100,000 citizens lined the streets in support of this event. The crowd was basically a sea of red, white and blue.

The Welcome Home the Heroes Parade concluded at Union Station. Ironically, this was once a bustling railroad station that welcomed home heroes from previous wars. It now played host to many organizations serving Veterans in what was known as the “Veterans Resource Village.” Booths and tables spread throughout the station touting the various services now available to Veterans to help transition back to civilian life or even prepare them to continue the fight in Afghanistan or other parts of the world. People from all over the Country came to St. Louis to walk, watch or weep as they viewed the memorial displayed inside Union Station.

This grand event came together in only 30 days due to the efforts of a small group of dedicated individuals who faced great odds and possessed little money. What began as a simple Facebook page in the virtual world ended as a big event in the real world. These efforts started a phenomenon across the nation. National television and media exposure helped stir interest and now other cities have started their own Facebook pages and parades. Their motto is “People, not Politics.” The event was financed, primarily, with lots of very small donations.

The citizens thanked the organizers, volunteers, mayor and all of St. Louis for stepping up to place our Veterans in a special place of honor on that Saturday and everyday after. The war may be ending but the fight is still on.

Fanny Scholl - A Cardinal favorite along with Stan Musial

Fanny Scholl

This past week the Cardinal organization said good-bye to two legends. Our revered Stan Musial and the incomparable Fanny Scholl. Both dedicated much of their lives to serving baseball and those who love the game. We all know about Stan Musial and his incredible contributions to baseball, St. Louis and his entire family of humankind. However, fewer people knew Fanny, but Stan Musial did.

In fact, owners, GM's, broadcast announcers and Cardinal Hall of Famers knew Fanny. She held court over the Red Bird Roost. For over 40 years she never missed a game. People went out of their way to make it up to Fanny’s grill to pay homage. When people like me were serving beef tenderloin, salmon or something with a fancy French name, the guests in the Red Bird Roost simply wanted a Fanny burger. Her attention to the quality of the food she served gave her quite a reputation with the Chefs over the years. As colleagues, we got her whatever she wanted. Her less than five-foot frame and 99 years of life experience demanded great respect. Fanny took the time to get know all of her friends on a personal level. She was a true VIP.

Her world was one where powerful men and women shrank in her presence. In her humble, gentle way, she touched the lives of every person who knew her. This is a positive indictment of the kind of life she led. She retired from the stadium in her late nineties but like, Stan Musial, she left an indelible impression. We got to throw her a party near the end of the 2012 season in her beloved Red Bird Roost. A bigger party is being thrown in heaven with Stan welcoming her. Her faith was unshakable and her smile unforgettable.

We will miss you Fanny!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Haunt - Illustration Friday

Haunt - On All Hallows Eve, the Vampire Bats go on the Haunt and the Ghosts are on the glide to make sure we all enjoy a spooky night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bob Cassilly - Sculptor/Visionary/Climber

(Illustration Friday visitors - Fuel, Scattered and Contraption all rolled into one. Water as fuel, many scattered ideas into one and certainly one giant contraption - just check out the St. Louis City Museum.)

Bob Cassilly created many works of interactive art. All draw the viewer in to the wonder of both the physical and mental human experience associated with each piece. This unique artist passed away recently in the midst of carrying out another gargantuan task. The co-founder and creative spirit behind the St. Louis City Museum set his sights on an even bigger playground. This can be a place where old meets the really old, Cementland.

An abandoned cement factory and warehouse company appears as ruins similar to the Coliseum, the Pyramids and even Stone Henge. These places represent lost worlds whose contemporary purposes began to fade as more time passed. We, as latter day observers, can only guess and conjure up stories about their significance. Even further away from our relatively recent ruins of up to 5000 years ago, stand the ruins of our Pre-Cambrian predecessors. Mr. Cassilly seemed to want to marry these two old concepts with a young suitor, a child-like adventurer. This adventurer being fueled by the simple human desire to be a kid. A kid who kayaks through silos on water pumped in from the mighty Mississippi River.  A kid who braves eel infested moats, scales castle walls and then gleefully throws rocks at would-be invaders. A kid who sees the world as a place to explore. A place to do things they normally would not do. What more symbolic way to pay tribute to all three missions than to explore this organic, concrete jungle along the same pathways that Lewis and Clark traversed on their famed journey in 1803?

Bob Cassilly will be remembered for his talent as a sculptor and his vision as a mold breaker. Visitors throughout St. Louis and other parts of the country can look to his work as a reminder of a person who knew that growing up was optional, not a requirement. Go climbing at Turtle Park in Forest Park, visit the St. Louis Zoo or check out the hippos at NY’s Central Park.  His presence is all around us. I just hope that with his passing, we gain more artists who are brave enough to carve out a new world without waiting around to ask for permission.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Boundaries Broken

Out of smoke and despair, comes hope. Hope that holds vigil over our boundaries to keep us safe.

9/11 Reflection of a Flight Attendant and Broken Boundaries

by Cindy Paul

I wasn’t certain I wanted to watch any of the memorial tributes to 9/11 today. Reliving the feelings would be too painful. I succumbed finally to the History Channel and am glad I did. You see, I was an American flight attendant (formerly TWA) at this time. A few minutes before 8:00 CST that morning, I prided myself in successfully trading out of a weekend trip for one that left Tuesday evening, 9/11/2001. Just a short time later, the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. A few minutes later, another crashed into the South Tower. My four children, 1 year old triplets and 4 year old child, were happily watching Barney when I got a call to change the channel.

I could not believe my eyes, what just happened? Wow, so many people dead, so many in shock. Was this really happening or was this yet another movie being filmed in NY. I did not know anyone working in the towers but did have plenty of friends flying the skies at this time and one working in Manhattan at the time. So much was unknown and nothing made sense. This was all happening within the boundaries of our country, right here in the United States. I had just picked up a trip set to leave in a few hours. Of course, I would take it, it never occurred to me not to, even after my husband and family members advised against it. Air traffic control made the decision for me when they grounded all air travel.

Later, I listened to a flight attendant friend recount her very different experience. She was departing just a few gates down from one of the targeted planes. As she searched her memory, she recalls seeing faces of the passengers and crew as they waited to board the plane. She boarded hers and one passenger talking on the phone asked about a crash into the WTC. No one knew anything and they took off on time. As they did, apparently, so did the plane carrying all of the faces she had just seen. Very quickly, they were called into the cockpit and told the news. They had to go back into the cabin and walk row by row looking for anyone suspicious. Obviously, I can only imagine how surreal this all must have seemed. We, as flight attendants, are trained for hijackings and other emergencies. Most hijackings occur when the perpetrator wants to go somewhere specific or have a specific demand met. The terrorists knew this and knew that all flight personnel are trained to cooperate. They used this to their advantage to overtake the planes and carry out the suicidal mission.

For weeks, nothing was routine any more for my job at the airline. New security measures fell upon us all. We, eventually, were given self-defense classes. We tried to console nervous passengers. We comforted one another. We learned to spot Air Marshalls on our planes and learned to stay out of their way. We learned that the world we lived in was now one where anyone can change the lives of another in an instant. Selfish people with selfish agendas, filled with jealousy, hatred and fear can now dictate the way you live and enjoy your life.

How dare this extremist group of terrorists invade our country? Who were they to impose their will upon countless numbers of humans who didn’t share their view? I believe God appeals to us all in whatever language or religion we seek him out? These people were not acting through God or for God; they were acting for their own selfish reasons. Granted, so much can be traced to how they are indoctrinated at a young age but there comes a point when we all must think for ourselves, sometimes at a very early age. We all become accountable for our own actions.

This was one of them. Ten years later, I realize that my generation will always remember what they were doing this fateful day, just like the previous generation remembered where they were when JFK was murdered. I hope my children’s generation will not carry on the legacy of witnessing anything this horrific again, but I know life does not work this way.

I commend my fellow Americans for their individual sacrifices both in the air and on the ground ten years ago. I also am grateful that I was not in the air that day so that I may reflect on this today with you. So I do watch the tributes, I do relive the painful feelings. I guess it would actually be more painful to forget.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Asleep Illustration Friday

At least one of them is asleep. This is from a story called "Cloud Cruising." This little boy and his dog Lucky finally prove that a cloud is as soft as a puppy's ear. It only took 30 rolls of sticky tape, a wobbly ladder, some rope and a lot of patience. This pair's hard work paid off in the end as you can see.