Poetry Thursday #9


What’s that you say? It’s Thursday? And I haven’t written in…a long time. Almost a year again. Crazy how time flies and how best intentions fall short. Must be something about inching toward Autumn that keeps bringing me back. We’ll see if it sticks this time.

A long time ago when I was young and constantly heartbroke, I wrote miles of poetry. Usually it took me a few months, but in one two-week stretch I filled up one of my 100 page notebooks. Prolific, yes. Good? I’ll let you decided. I grabbed a few from that notebook that still ring a bit true.

the same questions

these days going by
so strange to think
they’re almost done
bittersweet the only
word coming close
to describing this,
these feelings inside
leaving new friends
to go see old ones
does the world
make these things
happen on purpose?
does happiness ever come
without some
covered-up pain?
even as I ask,
I know the answer
looking back,
I’ve always known

enough to send shivers

sitting here in a broken
white lawnchair
looking out over
still-dead trees
the wind blows Spring
with just a touch of winter
tailing behind
warm enough
for shorts but cool enough
to send shivers
once in awhile
the snow is gone and the days
are still counting
isn’t this
what I always wanted?
isn’t this
what I looked forward to?
sometimes I wonder


Poetry Thursday-ish #8

Years ago when I was writing poetry more often, I thought a good name for a collection would be Tree With a Heart. That name has sort of stuck with me even as my delusions of grandeur have passed. I don’t know if I ever wrote a poem with that title, but this morning the words to one just flowed. Also, I realize it’s been almost a year since I posted my last poem. I love October and Autumn and there must be something about this time of year that shakes the words a little looser than normal. I’m grateful for that. 20171010_102816

Tree With a Heart

Tree with a heart
carved into it
the years ago
of you
and I
the days of
and kisses
and stolen
when clouds
were gray and
eyes bright
and leaves
of red
and a pocket
sealed our fate
our love
at least
the ages
into a last
and lone

Poetry Thursday-ish #7

I haven’t blogged in forever. Nor have I written a poem in forever. Life happens and sometimes – ok, a lot of times – I forget to slow down and think and write about it. Two days ago I had a feeling I couldn’t shake, a sort of nostalgia mixed with déjà vu. And as I slowed down and thought about how I was feeling and why, this poem came out.
Something about the oldness


Something about the oldness
of the days the feeling
of years of winters and
storms and lives lived
and the realness the
grit in the ground under
my fingernails cold breath
pulled away by the wind
down dark
alleyways away
from where I am now
thoughts of you and
the oldness
now creeping in my bones
the clouds
always closer
the gray in my hair
and feet that no longer
fingers that
no longer stretch
for every unseen thing
wrapped instead
around seconds trying
to get away
like smoke
from the stacks of ancient
abandoned factories
and the mountains
my old friends
look down with kind
sad eyes and I know
they know
this feeling

Poetry Thursday #6

Back when both myself and this blog were much younger, I started doing Poetry Thursdays, where I’d post an old poem I’d written. For whatever reason I stopped doing it. But seeing as how I’ve been horrible at blogging lately, and seeing as how it’s a Thursday and I just wrote my first poem in a very long time, it seemed obvious to bring it back.

It was raining like crazy all day yesterday, and I took this picture through the window.


It gave me the first line to this poem, and the rest just kinda spilled out today. Hope you like it.


the rain turned the world into a watercolor today
and I watched the rivers
the window as I waited
to hear your voice
the chill of late April
the promise of flowers
but who knows
they’ll ever bloom
who knows
if you’ll ever
come back
or if the rain
will just wash

That Time Again

What’s that you say? It’s been 2014 for over a month? Already? Whoops. Well, better late than never, I guess. The last month has been a super busy one. We’re down to the very last few shots on Rio 2, which comes out in April. It should be a good time, and if your kids liked the first one, they’ll love this one too!

I’ve also been doing crazy lots of freelance graphic design-type stuff, so I really haven’t had much time for writing. But I’m working on a MG graphic novel synopsis and am excited to get going on that. Hopefully the rest of 2014 will be as good as the first month has been. But for now, a few goals:

Read more, but don’t ignore the kids to do so.

Put the phone down. Look around more.

Draw and write.

Enjoy every day.

I think that’s about it. So far I’m doing all right. Hope you are too!

Happy 75th, Superman!

Superman celebrated his 75th anniversary this year. Although Batman is my favorite comic book character, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Superman. It’s hard to describe, but there’s something about his character that has always resonated with me. I wanted to make a little comic to express some of how I felt about him and what he represents. Hope you like it!


Let’s Animate!

It’s amazing how much technology we have at our fingertips these days. When I was little, there was no easy way for a kid to do animation. But now all you need is an ipod or smart phone and you can make your very own animations. That’s what we spent the last few days doing for a contest put on by The Animation Chefs. It was tons of fun and pretty simple. There’s a free app called Stop Motion Studio that we put on our ipods, we picked up an ipod tripod adapter, and we were good to go. The boys had an absolute blast making their own animations, and my wife and I gave it a try too. It’s so much fun, and a great way to spend time with your kids. You’ll be amazed at the stuff they come up with. Here are a few of ours.


My Wife’s:


I’m a NaNoWriMo Loser (And That’s Okay).


November is the month many exciting things happen. My wedding anniversary, birthdays for two of my kids, Thanksgiving, Movember, and more. But as a writer, one of the coolest things about November is NaNoWriMo, or for the acronym-averse among us, National Novel Writing Month. The idea is simple. Write 50,000 words during the month of November.

Notice I said the idea is simple.

The reality is much harder. Which is why of the three times I’ve attempted to “win” NaNoWriMo, I’ve never even gotten close. November is also, without fail, a month that piles up with busyness very easily. (Those things I listed above play a big part, except for Movember. That one pretty much takes care of itself.) So not only is it hard to find time to write with the normal full-time job and full-time family life, but all the extra stuff makes it near-impossible.

But still, each late October, in the midst of my Halloween happiness, I get the itch, the idea that THIS will be the year that I dominate NaNoWriMo. And that indomitable spirit usually carries me though a good week or two of November. And then I realize I’ve only written 2000 words total instead of the daily goal of ~1600. But it’s okay, I tell myself, I’ll just double up my word count for a few of the days and I’ll be right back on track!

And it’s usually just about this time that real life comes clomping over and reminds me of all the silly realities and details that I’m supposed to be dealing with, and inevitably my NaNo book falls by the wayside.

But in the end, I’m really okay with the way things work out, for several reasons.

One is that it’s a goal of mine, albeit one that I fail at all the time, to take advantage of the opportunities each day offers. Some days that means having a few uninterrupted hours to write at night. Other days it means that with time spent with kids and my wife, my writing time is minimal to nothing at all. But I’d rather my kids have memories of me spending time with them than of me hunched over the computer, grumbling to myself.

The other main reason is the goal of NaNoWriMo is to get you to write. Write a novel, sure, but write. That’s the key. Right now I’ve averaged just under 500 words per day for the month. I wish it were more. I wish I’d been able to get closer to my goal. But I’m okay with it because I’m a lot closer to finishing this book than if I hadn’t tried to do NaNo again.

And I think most people who tried and failed, like me, probably wrote way more than they would have without it. So wear your loser badge proudly. Because you’re not a loser in the traditional sense. You’re on your way to winning. you’re on your way to finishing that book, even if it takes a little longer than 30 days.

PS. Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy All Hallows’ Eve!

I love Halloween. From the fall colors to Jack Skellington to trick or treating, pretty much everything about it is awesome. This year my agency had their illustrators do some illustrations that fit with the theme “Goodbye summer, hello fall”. Naturally, I was excited to do this. Here are mine. Hope you have a safe and happy Halloween!




Looking Up

I’ve always been enamored by the skies. (Hence, the name of my blog) Whether it’s shooting stars or sunsets or rainclouds, I’ve always loved looking up. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s some desire to escape, to soar above this world. Maybe it’s just the vastness of it all. Maybe it’s the inability to measure what’s in a cloud, or to imagine that the moon is shining down only for me. For whatever reason, I’ve always loved it. Before digital cameras, I’d routinely fill up rolls of film with pictures of the sky. Now I just fill up my phone.

I was riding down the freeway with my family the other day when I saw a massive cloud churning across the sky. I tried to snap a picture, but a wall of passing trees was too quick and obscured everything. So I had to wait a few miles before I caught sight of it again. When I finally did, it had changed to this:


I know it’s not a perfect likeness, but my first thought was, “It’s FALCOR THE LUCKDRAGON!” Now, The Neverending Story might be one of those movies that people love because they grew up with it. But being one of those people who did grow up with it, I’m proud to say I love it. If you haven’t seen it, you should still check it out. It’s a fantastic tale, even if the filmmaking effects don’t quite hold up. But back to the point, if I hadn’t been looking up, I would have missed this pretty spectacular cloud.

There’s an Ani Difranco lyric that goes “When I look down, I just miss all the good stuff. And when I look up, I just trip over things.” I’m not saying we should wander around with our heads in the clouds all the time. Everyone has responsibilities and I’m not advocating we abandon them. But once in a while, take a break from checking Facebook on your phone and look up, look around. See what beauty and inspiration is out there.

You’re probably going to trip over more things. But I’d rather do that than miss all the good stuff.

A Few Thoughts on Storytelling

I’m lucky enough to work in animation and make movies for a living. It’s a fantastic job and for the most part I love it. But one downfall about the part of the production I’m in is that by the time the shots reach my department, the story is more or less set in stone. I do lighting and compositing, which is basically the last step of the animation pipeline. So shots go through screenwriters and storyboard artists and animators and the director by the time they come to me, and my main two goals are 1: Make it look awesome and, 2: Make sure the storytelling comes through clearly. So I have an important part to play in the storytelling process, but I don’t actually have any say in what’s happening in the story. And that’s fine. I’m not trying to complain. But I have to admit it’s frustrating sometimes to be working on a shot that contains a joke or story elements that to me just don’t work. But again, I’m not trying to complain. I will make that fart joke scene look as beautiful as possible, and I’ll do it happily.

But that’s one of the reasons I write and make my own stories. Not that I’m better than the professional screenwriters and storyboard artists that work on these movies, but because I can have the freedom to craft the story and lead it in the direction I want to go. When I was working at Disney, from time to time they would showcase different departments and what part they played in the film-making process. Being someone who loves writing and loves story, I was always really interested when it was the Story Department’s turn to be highlighted. One time they gave out a packet of “Story Flashcards”. I’ve kept them with me and once in awhile will read through them as a refresher to what some of the important elements of story are. It’s interesting that these are universal ideas, not just meant for one form of storytelling or another. So I thought I’d share a few of them here.


I think most of the time the audience/reader is right there with the main character and what he/she thinks and wants. As we throw wrenches in those plans, the character is going to react a certain way, and hopefully the reader is able to feel at least a small part of that same emotion.


Your characters’ true selves will be revealed by the choices they make. It’s not about the game they talk, it’s about what they do when they’re up against a wall.

And, as we know from Batman, this is true in real life too. (Batman is totally real life)

And finally,


This one goes hand in hand with the last one, and I know you’ve probably heard it a million times. But it’s still relevant. Don’t tell me that this character is smart/funny/good/bad/whatever, SHOW me. It, along with my love/hate relationship with adverbs, is something I struggle with. But it’s always more effective to show what you want to say instead of just saying it. It’s not going to be easier, but it will be better.

I hope these help a little. I know they have for me, and I’ll keep revisiting them until I get them right.

I Don’t Want to Grow Up…

…if growing up means being like you.

The year was 2001. I was 22 and driving tour buses for the summer in Seattle. On an off day some friends and I went to Freeway Park, which is a cool park that happens to sit right above the Downtown freeway. We were running around, enjoying the splendid summer air, when we happened upon a place to play hopscotch. We decided hopscotch was a grand idea and commenced playing. We’d been up to it for a while when a young guy who couldn’t have been much older than us walked by and said, “Aren’t you a little old to be doing that?” We laughed it off, but from that day on, obviously to today since I’m still thinking about, I’ve felt sorry for that guy.

Call me crazy, but growing up has some major pitfalls. Sure, I can eat ice cream for dinner if I want to, (as long as the kids don’t see me) but there are a whole lot of negatives that come with the territory. Too many to list, in fact.

Last week at work someone put out a huge stack of MG and YA ARCs, free for the taking. A bunch of us wandered over to see what there was to be had. As we were perusing the titles, a guy came walking up and asked his friend what was going on. The guy made some disparaging remark about only checking them out if you liked reading “kid’s books.”

You know what, Hopscotch Guy and YA Book Guy? There’s a reason a lot of growing up sucks, and it’s you. What part of growing up says you should stop having fun, stop doing silly things, stop reading about fantastical places and people and things?

Why is it not cool to have childish wonder?

I submit that it IS cool.

If you think you’re too much of an adult to play a kid’s game or read a book aimed at teenagers, don’t do those things.

But don’t blame it on growing up. Growing up doesn’t have to be staid and stiff and boring.

It shouldn’t be.

Blame it on your own lame self, because you’re the one who’s more concerned with looking cool than having fun.

The rest of us are going to be enjoying both adult and kids books and activities. And eating ice cream for dinner. 

Song of the Week – Bouncing Souls

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve done a song here. Time to fix that. And who better to do it with than the Bouncing Souls?

Every year I make my wife a mix for Valentine’s day, since she hates overpriced flowers and chocolate. She’d much prefer I randomly surprise her with those items throughout the year, which is something I’m trying to get better at. But back to the mix tape (ok fine, it’s an itunes playlist). Usually she plays it on and off for the rest of the year while she’s picking the kids up from school, grabbing groceries, and running other errands. The kids usually like most of the songs and sometimes a song here and there stands out. On this year’s mix, it was definitely this song. My 8 year old constantly requests it, and everyone sings along, even my 2 year old. I love hearing the words coming out of their mouths. I hope the meaning is getting through to them too. I want them to hold on to the important things in life, through all the peaks and valleys they’ll face.

With every peak and valley
With every white-knuckled fist
With everything I’ve lost and learned
I won’t let go of this grip
With every storm we weather
I would never miss
I won’t give up, I won’t let go
I’m going down with the ship

Timing is Everything

I have a confession to make. I don’t really like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In fact, I enjoyed the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version more, other than those horrible songs.

I know. Crazy, right?

Before you pull out the tar and feathers, hear me out. I didn’t grow up with the Gene Wilder movie. In the days of VCRs and lousy cable television, that was one movie my family never got around to watching. So it wasn’t until AFTER watching the Johnny Depp version and my wife telling me how it paled in comparison to the Gene Wilder version that I finally watched it.

Let me just say that I was underwhelmed. In fact, I wasn’t even close to being whelmed. From “Cheer up Charlie” to the obvious sound-stage look to the factory, it just didn’t do anything for me. And as creepy as Johnny Depp was, Gene Wilder was much stranger/creepier to me.

I mean, look at this guy:

That part was in the movie, right? My point is that the movie was just strange and didn’t do anything for me on an emotional level. But if nothing else, it’s responsible for the Condescending Wonka meme, which is actually quite enjoyable.

I might be alone in my Wonka feelings, but how about this? You go up to a couple of your friends who are laughing about something. They tell you why, and maybe you give a courtesy laugh because it’s really not funny. But to them it’s hilarious. And one of them says something along the lines of “guess you had to be there.”

The point is that just like events in our lives, the stories we consume are often rooted to the time we watched/read/listened. Is Alf a good show? Probably not. But I grew up with it, and even if it doesn’t hold up, you can bet I still have fond memories of it.

I’m 34 years old. I’m married and have kids. I even have a 401k, as ridiculous as that may be. If I picked up Jack Kerouac’s On The Road for the first time today, I might think it was interesting, but I guarantee it wouldn’t connect with me the way it did when I was 21. It’s one of my favorite books not only because of what’s inside it, but also because the first time I read it I felt like Sal Paradise was talking to me. It made me want to take on the open road. And I did.

The same goes for something like Harry Potter. While it definitely holds up, there was just something special about reading those as they came out. I will always remember the anticipation and excitement of picking up a copy of Deathly Hallows at midnight and reading if straight through. My 8 year old son is reading the Harry Potter series right now, and although he’s loving it, I don’t think he’ll have quite the visceral connection to it that I do. But it’s all right. He’s going to have his own Harry Potter. He’s going to listen to music that makes me do this:

And that okay. That’s just how life works. I just hope my kids find books and movies and music that truly speak to them, so that when they’re ancient like me they can look back fondly and draw from those experiences. Because the right stories at the right time can change your life.