Yap Ye Iswa Swamp Festival

Since moving to South Carolina, I've been working with members of the Catawba Nation to try to set up workshops to help the Catawba share their myths and stories in picture book manuscripts appropriate for publication through new imprints like Heartdrum at HarperCollins - specializing in books featuring First Nations people and communities. Several fellow faculty have joined me on this endeavor and after many meetings (and Covid), we're getting closer to making this a reality. Because the Catawba people have lots of stories to tell and very few have been shared in books. In the meantime, I didn't want to miss the Yap Ye Iswa Swamp Festival at the Catawba Nation on a recent, gorgeous fall day.
I met up with Casey Cothran (former English Chair at Winthrop University), Casey's friend and New York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis, and Laura Gardner (Professor Emeritus of Book Making). Here they are with a totem pole featuring local Yehasuri - mysterious creatures of the forest.
We ate fry bread, bought jewelry and books, and ate roasted corn. But the main reason for attending was to watch the dances. Alongside the resonating sound of drumming and singing, the women did a Bird Dance.
A man did a Warrior Dance.
But my fave was the Ribbon Dancers (?). Their job was to flatten the grass to create a good performance area. Their costumes rippled with their stomping.
We had a marvelous time.
And I made a new friend.
I'm trying not to say 'no' to much right now. I don't know what life will look like going forward without Stan, but I know I have more adventures ahead, partly to honor all the fun he and I had together.

Visiting Jane in Massachusetts

This is my first post since sharing the news about losing my sweet husband. I was reluctant to let that post sink from the top listing, but life must go on and I have to get back into the rapid river of it all...
      I was already slated to visit Jane Yolen, author of over 400 books, in Hartfield, Massachusetts via a funded research grant for a project she and I are working on. (I illustrated three of her picture books.) The tickets were purchased, and the trip was arranged before my life went pear-shaped. Jane and Heidi Stemple (Jane's daughter, manager, and author of over 40 books) encouraged me to come anyway, despite the rawness of my emotional state. Jane lost her husband (and Heidi's father) 20 years ago. "We know grief." I thought the change of scenery, and the hugs, might do me good - so I went. It was the right thing to do.
      That said, the initial plan was to just go hang out and attend a book signing on Saturday. And then Jane's schedule did what it does... it grew, until it was positively jam-packed! Jane is a hard woman to keep up with. At 83, she has more energy than most people half her age, and she is in demand!
     Friday night, she hosted an illustrators’ critique group at her house - Phoenix Farm - mostly led by my dear friend Ruth Sanderson. It was fun to look at people’s work and make some new friends.
Saturday, we drove towards Boston for the book signing at The Silver Unicorn, that was packed with kids, parents, and budding children's book creators.
I even signed a few books!
The manager, Casey Robinson is the author of the new Iver & Ellsworth, that made me cry, so I had to buy it (it's about loss and healing). She's also Heidi’s writing mate, and she was so nice - I loved her immediately.
We all went to lunch afterwards at a cute little restaurant, Not Your Average Joe's, that was very good. The first thing the waitress asked is “are there any food allergies I need to be aware of?” OMG! NOBODY in the south does that! Otherwise, Peter Tacy, Jane's new/old-ish beau, cooked for us every night - and he’s a very good cook - a lot like Stan - steak, chicken, lamb with veggies and potatoes - yum. They make a good pair.
I walked on the dike that runs along the Connecticut River Sunday morning. It was drizzly and grey and suited my mood - lovely. Although, I did get stared down by a cow.
Jane and I finally had our sit down to talk about our project after that. We came up with some good, workable ideas that I'll be implementing. (Can't really share right now - top secret!)
      Sunday late afternoon was the annual children’s book show opening (first time since Covid) at the R. Michelson Gallery. It was jam-packed with Caldecott winners and authors. I was thrilled to be able to pose with the published attendees.
No wonder they all want to live up there! It's a creative triangle formed by The Eric Carle Museum, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the Dr. Seuss Museum! The concentration (and support) of talent in Massachusetts is truly impressive - like nowhere else. For instance, here is my dear friend Lauren Mills with some of her gorgeous work. (She recently lost her husband too, illustrator and professor Dennis Nolan. I taught alongside both of them at Hollins University.)
I was rather glad we were all wearing masks as noone could tell I was gaping like a goldfish!
Monday, Lin Oliver (author and founder of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) flew from Los Angeles to film/interview Jane for six hours for a new Legacy series they are creating - interviews with some of the greats in children's literature. (Jane was also a founding member of SCBWI.)
      While they were filming during the day, Ruth took me on a tour of her studio, which I'd somehow never visited before. Here she is with some work from her newest book, A Storm of Horses.
Here's her scratchboard set-up.
Truly, the amount of museum-quality work in Ruth's home is overwhelming. This is just a small portion of her work in storage.
After visiting her home, Ruth and I went to downtown North Hampton. It's an adorable town with five colleges within a short distance, so it is thriving. We went to the gorgeous Forbes Library to scout a space where she’ll have an upcoming exhibit, and visited the sprawling and welcoming children's floor. We also had lunch at a little hippie cafe, Haymarket Cafe, that was fun. We had a lovely time.
     When we got back to Jane’s they were just wrapping up the interview. Lin gave me a big hug and asked all about how I was doing and what I was up to. She is such a love. When you talk to her, it's like the sun has turned to face you directly.
     Here are Heidi, Me, Ruth, Lin, and Jane.
And one of my faves of me and Jane.

     Tuesday morning, Heidi and I went for a lovely, COLD, walk around Hartfield.
I showered, packed, and Jane and Peter drove me to the airport. The trip was a whirlwind, but I was sorry to leave. Throughout it all, I took a lot of naps, but I kept waking up at 3:30am. Heidi called it “The Goddess Hour” - I like that.
     Stan wasn't planning to be with me on this trip anyhow, so the pangs hit when I wanted to call him and tell him about everything going on... and, of course, when I returned home - with a cold. It's not been easy, but I'm lucky to have so many good friends in my life to help see me through this tough time. Especially my friends in Massachusetts.

Stan Dulemba (February 25, 1961 - November 2, 2022)

Deep breath... it's time to share... Wednesday, I lost my husband of 21 years, Stan Dulemba. I am heartbroken. It's such a strange time of grief and joy as friends from all over the world have rushed to my side to offer love and support. Everyone loved Stan and repeatedly call him "A Lovely Man." He was, he was. I am in the process of creating a memorial page on my website at https://dulemba.com/Stan and information about his upcoming Celebration of Life on December 10th can be found at https://fb.me/e/2ZL9Sd2Oy. Please keep us both in your hearts.
Dear friend and author Jane Yolen wrote a poem in tribute...
There Was Stan
A lovely man, we all said,
but Elizabeth knew best:
the once lively mind,
the rider in the wind,
the cook and bed warmer,
the hand to hold,
that wonderful laugh,
the constant love.

Lovely yes.
But so much more.