Little Big Books

BIG ideas for little people

Up the Mango Tree

The studio is a sacred, dedicated space where an artist/writer works. Even if it’s only a space that she has cleared in her mind.

It doesn’t have to be grand!

My first studio was a ramshackle perch in a mango tree in Trinidad, during WW II. I was around five years old. My big brother helped me make it.

The tree stood in the back yard of our bungalow on the edge of a jungle. Every day, when I needed a break from daily routine, or from my family’s efforts to civilize me, I’d shuck my shoes and climb into my tree with pencils and paper. There, I could write and draw until ordered down for lunch, a bath, or a visit.

The mangos fed me.  The solitude focused me. This first studio established my life-long ground rules for creating words and pictures.

Aim high. Be fruitful.

Be in the world, but never fear being alone. You have to stand apart sometimes to see what’s going on below, or in yourself.

Be open to whatever comes into your mind. No matter how weird it seems. Write it down. Draw it. Who knows where the breadcrumbs will lead? Do this every day. You might surprise yourself…

Since my time up the mango tree, my studios have varied wildly, depending on circumstances. I’ve written on a kitchen counter in half a Quonset hut beside the Yale Bowl. In a glorious home-office in a Regency house in London. In a windowless room in an electronics factory in Denver. At the breakfast table in a rented home in Santa Monica. And now, in a small 8th-floor studio/office in an apartment in West Vancouver, B.C.

I once shared this beautiful space with my husband, Joe. Since he died in 2016, I’ve shared it with a lovely roommate, Janice. And with an adopted avian family:  Busby, the seagull, and Jasper and Coco, two crows who live in a towering tree next door. This is a no-pets apartment building. But there are no rules against pets who are never seen. (TEENY GREEN?)

I’m attaching a photo of my latest studio, so you can see where my books are created.

I love it!  It shares important qualities with my first office. It’s high among the trees. It’s perched above the Burrard Inlet to the south, and below the mountains to the north. This gives me a bird’s eye view of the vibrant life of a great city unfolding below me. It inspires me to be fruitful. I can think about and create words and pictures every day.

What more could an artist/writer want?

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