Herman Maril Artwork Inspired Books for Children

I thought I was writing it for children, but I was really writing it to answer all the questions people would ask me as an artist’s daughter–

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My first publishing success was a children’s book, two books— Me Molly Midnight; the Artist’s Cat and Runaway Molly Midnight; the Artist’s Cat—illustrated with artwork by Herman Maril.

Home for a visit after college, I was ecstatic to be surrounded by my father’s paintings, after living in an environment with mostly bare walls.  My mother Esta Maril, a psychiatric social worker, had just written a book about a little boy who only ate peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day and she was going to show it to a publisher, Barbara Holdridge at Stemmer House. An aspiring writer myself, we talked about the elements present in a children’s book over dinner.

That night, unable to sleep, I went downstairs and started writing a story told  from the perspective of  our black cat Molly, who had once belonged to me but had switched allegiance to my father.

I thought I was writing it for children, but I was really writing it to answer all the questions people would ask me as an artist’s daughter, questions like:

How long does it take your father to complete a painting?

Where does he work?

 What kind of materials does he use?

Where does he get his ideas?

Does he ever put you in a painting?

Are you also an artist?

 

Then I had  another idea. I could illustrate the story with actual paintings my father had done with Molly the black cat in them as well as photographs from our house, settings that had inspired my father’s artwork. My mother liked my manuscript so much, she took it with her to her appointment with Barbara Holdridge. Her book was never published, mine was. However, Barbara did not like the idea of mixing photographs with original artwork and she nixed my illustration concept. She also did not like the idea of the story being told in first person by the cat and asked me to change it to third person.

I did what she requested. Then she changed her idea again about point of view after she fell in love with the painting she chose for the cover, “Suzanne and Cat” and became entranced with the idea of alliteration, Me, Molly Midnight. So, one afternoon while sitting in her parlor on a lumpy couch revising my manuscript, desperately hungry for something to eat and too shy to ask her for permission to take a break, I changed it back to first person. I was young and eager. After it was published I visited many schools, gave readings and encouraged elementary age school children to create books of their own.

As one of the many programs associated with Herman Maril: The Strong Forms of Our Experience on exhibit through October 29that the Cahoon Museum of American Art,  September 15th at 1:00 p.m., I’ll be in Cotuit, Massachusetts on Cape Cod doing a reading and leading a workshop for children on making a book for about your pet. https://cahoonmuseum.org/programs/

I’d still like to do a children’s book with a mixture of photographs and paintings.  My pet of choice these days is a dog, Chloe the labradoodle, a dog my father never met. She’s quite striking, tall in stature and white when she’s clean.

In answer to that last question, fans of my father’s work often ask me, Are you an artist like your Dad?Tthe word artist is not limited to visual art.  Following in my father’s footsteps, I  am an artist, I create with words.

 

 

 

Mother and Daughter Bond Through Poems

Editors Letter from May issue of Chesapeake Taste magazine

A thick, shabby blue book with transparent thin pages sits on my bookshelf. Titled, Combined Louis Untermeyer edition of Modern British and Modern American poetry, it belonged to my mother. It was one of her college textbooks from one of her favorite classes, and her notes are scribbled in the margins.  Sometimes during my adolescent years, in the afternoon, on a day when no immediate responsibilities were pressing, we’d sit in the living room and read poetry to one another.  My mother would be stretched out on the deep green Duncan Phyfe style couch, where she liked to curl up for her cat naps before getting dinner ready, and I’d be sitting across from her in one of the old rocking chairs my father was so fond of, thumbing through that heavy book looking for a favorite verse I remembered.

I’m not sure how our tradition of reading poetry to one another started. Maybe I was looking for a poem to memorize for school and I asked her advice.  But when we read poems together, I saw another side of my mother. I saw the schoolgirl, eager to soak up wisdom and understand the complexities of language.  Her professional work, housekeeping duties, social calendar all were forgotten as she focused on the words on the page in front of her. Words. We use words every day to speak, to give instructions, to record what happened, but when words are used to create a poem they are used sparingly and that is when the artistry of how they are grouped and selected becomes apparent.  Poetry convinced me, I wanted to focus my life’s work on communication.

My mother was partial to T.S. Eliot.  She never tired of reading me “The Hollow Men.” This is the way the world ends.  This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang with a whimper. I marveled at the insight of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem, “Richard Corey” and his description of a town’s envy of a successful gentlemen who “glittered when he walked” until “one calm summer night be went home and put a bullet through his head.” I was lulled by the rhythm of Edna Vincent Millay’s poem “Recuerdo” with the repeated line We were very tired, we were very merry, We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. We both read back and forth to each other the poems of Robert Frost, imagining the stony hillsides, valleys, trees, and ponds of New England in the landscapes of his imagery.  But her all time favorite was “Lucinda Matlock,” a poem by Edgar Lee Masters published in Spoon River Anthology.

She admired the strong woman described by Masters, who raised eight out of twelve children to adulthood, and who at age 60 was still going strong rambling over the fields where sang the larks, gardening and shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys. The poem ends with a reprimand to anyone who complains they’ve got it tough with the sentence, Degenerate sons and daughters, Life is too strong for you—It takes life to love Life.

My mother died three years ago.  At the tribute to her life, her favorite poem was read and many stories were told about her famous Portuguese soup, her perceptive advice, her humorous and thoughtful gifts, her devotion to my father, love of cats, and zest for living.  I couldn’t read the poem, her poem, aloud without tearing up but now I can and I read it aloud often when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It puts everything into perspective. Happy Mother’s Day this month. Enjoy the magazine and visit us online and often. We’ve got

Remembering Louise Rowles

An old family friend, Louise Rowles, died the end of August and her memorial service is this Sunday at the Park School in Brooklandville, Maryland. Long before I knew Louise and her husband Bill as good friends of my parents, Herman and Esta Maril, I knew Louise as Mrs. Rowles, my favorite librarian. As a student at The Park School from age five to age 18, I spent a lot of time at the library. It was a quiet soothing refuge, where adventures could be launched as intriguing books were discovered and read, sometimes sitting right there in the library, or at home after finishing my homework. I went through a lot of books, reading late into the night, and each time I returned to the library, Mrs. Rowles always had plenty of new suggestions.
Her warm soothing voice still sticks in my mind along with her generous open spirit. Louise is someone, who when you talked with her, you always felt she was listening and that she really cared about what you had to say. We spent a lot of time with the Rowles family through the years. I fondly remember the times we shared a Friday night post Thanksgiving dinner and the way Louise made everyone who walked into her home feel welcome. She was always open to trying new things, such as learning to scuba dive, and traveling to far and exotic places. As a young girl imagining what type of person I’d become when I was adult, she was a role model. A mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother who nurtured a large and sprawling family, she also had a career and reached out into the community in multiple ways at a time when not as many women successfully balanced family and career. Louise, in her supportive unassuming way, touched many lives. She will always be a part of mine.