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Picturing a World

Volvelles

To aid a description in my fantasy novella-in-progress, I wanted a good image of a volvelle or "wheel chart" and had the fun of searching for one on the 'net. How about this example?!? Of course, in the real book, the device lies as flat as so many layers can, but bravo to the digitizers at the Berlin State Library for creating such a delicious, virtual, pop-up version. For links to additional pictures and resources, read on.
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Roman makeup

Website alert: Via a History Blog post, I got to this YouTube tutorial from English Heritage on how the Romans prepared and applied cosmetics. Imagine a tiny, curved mortar with a curved pestle that doubled as an applicator for eye-liner! Don't just imagine—watch. (With bonuses on Roman fabric dyes and wig-weaving.)

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Louis Béroud, copyist

Blog alert: A post at Lines and Colors on Louis Béroud has images of copyists in the Louvre, scenes of Parisian life, and an anecdote about the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911.

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Jeanette at McCall’s Magazine

After the death of her husband in 1904, the real Jeanette had a career in journalism, first at the Chattanooga Daily Times and then, from 1911–1921, at McCall's Magazine in New York City, where she was an associate editor. I believe she was an art editor; in any case, she would have known the art department at 236 W. 37th St. and would, I think, have been pleased with the self-possessed look on this reader's face. The lap robe and tea cup appeal to me, too; and I'm happy to imagine my fictional heroine Mattie settling down with this issue four years after the conclusion of ANONYMITY.

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Art, activism, and mythic fiction

Yesterday, I attended a meeting about changes to a Massachusetts program to promote solar energy in the Commonwealth and then came home to read Terri Windling's blog post on Art and Activism. The post is illustrated by absorbing gouache and watercolor paintings by the wonderful artist, Kristin Bjornerud.  Her pictures can inspire writers, maybe by literally suggesting a story line, maybe by leading to idiosyncratic explorations of what she calls "dream logic."
 
Windling quotes Bjonerud as saying, "My aim is to create contemporary fairy tales that act as a medium through which we may consider our ethical obligations to the natural world and to each other. Retelling and reshaping stories helps us to understand how we are entangled, where we meet, and how our differences may be viewed as disguises of our sameness."

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Jennings and Jones

Blog post tip: Kathleen Jennings is one of my favorite illustrators working today and the late Diana Wynne Jones one of my favorite authors. Lovely to learn that Jennings has designed the cover for an Israeli edition of Jones's Power of Three. Check out Jennings' post for her preliminary sketches—it's always interesting to see how artists work.

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August creativity

The All-Story, cover (August 1909)

Well, maybe not our image of women artists or ourselves as storytellers, but, hey! it's summer. Have fun with your own painting or writing. Happy August.

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Anglo-Saxon buildings

Deep immersion in the concrete details of everyday life is key to imagining past or fantasy worlds convincingly, so it is always a pleasure to find a well-written book that provides copious particulars about traditional technologies. Right now, I'm reading John Blair's Building Anglo-Saxon England, which draws on archeology, linguistics, economics, and other disciplines to examine Anglo-Saxon buildings, settlements, trade, and other aspects of the built environment in England between A.D. 600 and 1100. Pointing out that much of Anglo-Saxon construction was wooden and therefore has left few traces, Blair explores the ways scholars have come at questions sideways by analogies to living practices or through clever deductions.
 
And at least one wooden structure from the 11thC still stands—Greensted Church, pictured here. I have to say the log-cabin look is a surprise. It certainly may give me ideas for a rustic structure in a fantasy idea.

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Honey Bunch

Blog post tip: The workings of Edward Stratemeyer's syndicate, and especially the role of his secretary, Harriet Otis Smith, have contributed to the imaginary publishing office in my not-quite-abandoned ANONYMITY. I was tickled, therefore to run across a set of articles from the Scholarly Communication and Publishing at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign about the Honey Bunch series. Learning that Smith outlined and edited Honey Bunch: Her First Trip in an Airplane, I bought a copy. If nothing else, it will make for more soothing reading than news about drones, oil tankers, and possible air strikes in the Gulf.

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To the Underland

Yesterday, I began reading Robert MacFarlane's wonderful new book, The Underland. In the first chapter, the author and a friend enter a labyrinth of caves through a pothole. This morning, by astonishing coincidence, up pops this photograph of a Yorkshire fluted pothole at the British Geograph site. I visit Geograph every morning and sometimes pull together three or four photographs to prompt ideas for a story. This one is suggestive, for sure.

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