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doll20parts_zpsoei23o2mSo… Looking at this project from the front and kind of far away, without anything in hand and just the paper dollies stop-motion trailer from last year under my belt, it looked like simply A Good Time. A little closer up, sitting on the orange rug in the office, surrounded by ripped open bags of secondhand Barbi, Bratz, and a variety of other unidentified dolls* from the thrift store, it still looked like fun, albeit somewhat complicated fun – there was a problem to solve, and I generally like a problem to solve, especially when it involves clay, dictionary pages, ink, and glue. And over the course of a few weeks, with the generous application of all of those (delicious) supplies** our models emerged at last, rabbit-headed and incredibly tippy,*** but creepily darling in their own right.

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And then I had no idea what to do about it. Because that’s kind of how I work, right? I write novels without outlines,† I push things into motion sometimes (ok, often) with only a general plan, and I have been known to go on a spending spree at the craft store just because I want to touch all the things to find out how they feel. A friend once asked me what I thought my defining drive/emotion was, and for me it came down to Curiosity. This is to say, my inner critic is strong, but she also often gets squashed down by my inner six-year-old, who just wants to know How Things Work.

Ok, so I had a clue: I knew that Picasa would crunch pictures for me once they were amassed. I knew that we would need something stable to hold the camera while we took a brazillionty†† pictures for Picasa to crunch. I knew that lighting was going to be A Thing. And I knew that keeping track of two figurines, specifically, which leg of which figurine was going in which direction during micro-movements, was going to be a little tricky.††† I also knew that we were going to need to build a set that not only looked nice, but accommodated some really top-heavy movie stars.‡ And so, armed with an idea, we dug in to make a trailer.

Here’s how it went, bullet-point style:

– We opted for the iPad to take the pictures, because it does a better job than my phone. Also, I do not own any high-end camera equipment.

– We moved two six-foot tables into our space – one for the set, and one parallel to it for a workspace & camera. There was about a foot and a half between the two. We masking-taped the floor around the feet to mark the tables in case any of us bumped them, so we could move them back if need be. Also we duct taped a couple of the feet down and prayed it wouldn’t pick up the finish upon removal. (We got lucky there \o/)

– Books books books. And tiny birds. And dominoes. And the tiny model trees I had always wanted to buy but had no reason to buy, and a birdhouse, and some bitty paper apples. Dictionary paper, a watch key, and a bunch of fat produce rubberbands, cut into strips, to keep the slidy stuff in place – we built a set. A really cool set \o/
PRO TIP: Take reference shots. Things will move as you move all the, well, moving parts. It’s really good to know where they were before they moved. Also, if you have cats where you work, reference shots are invaluable. (SPOILER: we have 3 cats. We also employed a barricade overnight because Gunther likes the way Barbi hands feel against his fancy fancy teeth. Project board worked really well. G’bless the science fair, y’all.)

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– We set up lamps. We broke a lamp. We agreed we needed more lighting. We bought two cheap clip lamps (cheap clip lamps are The Best! Just, you know, make sure you have something to clip them to.) and a pack of 100-watt bulbs from HoDo. We moved in a couple power strips. We adjusted and adjusted and adjusted, and sighed and decided to humor one particular set of shadows in favor of dulling a big shiny reflection on the pretty green wall. In retrospect, we probably could have benefited from a string of LED Christmas tree lights taped strategically behind the set.

– We stuck the iPad on a couple books and boxes (and a tiny side table), and strapped that mess together with masking tape.
PRO TIP: I picked up a pack of foam popsicle stick looking things, initially to place between books to keep them from sliding. They were sort of ok for that, but not as good as the rubberbands. What they were REALLY good for, tho’, was as shims – we used them to keep pretty much everything level. And by everything, I mean the camera setup – we slid some under the iPad case, we slid some under the tiny side table, we popped a couple in under a book when the shot looked a little off.

– We applied generous amounts of modeling clay to the feet of our dollies to provide some support. This really worked out really badly. We revised our approach.
PRO TIP: if you want to get something to stay in place, the intuitive leap to modeling clay is great only in theory. Pick up some sticky-tac. You know, the stuff you use to hang up posters without cocking up the semi-gloss on your walls? It is AMAZING in these situations. Truly, I cannot praise the stuff enough for on-set shenanigans – with the sticky-tac we were able to make our models go where we wanted without having to employ balancing tricks; we just sort of, well, stuck stuff to other stuff where we wanted them to be and shot quickly. Hello, I ♥ sticky-tac.

– Team Salli posed the models, ducked out of the frame, and I shot. Pose, duck, shoot, pose, duck, shoot, pose, duck, shoot. Sometimes I posed and ducked and one of them shot. We did that for roughly 250 pictures – Good Times.

– And I let Picasa crunch the pictures: you select your pix from the files, tell it to make a movie, use the time-lapse option around 1/9 (play with it – you may find you like 1/10 or 1/8), and export that business. Afterward I popped it into Windows Movie Maker and added some music and fades, and voila! My friends, we have a trailer =)

For more information about Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival, check out www.rabbitheartpoetry.com

Also! If you’re poking around looking for info on making a film with practically no budget, check out the Rabbit Heart Pinterest page, How-To Tuesday for Rabbit Heart, where we’ve collected all kinds of good links for you <6

***

*Some of which were unidentifiable because they were missing a head, or were only a head. The thrift store sells them in plastic bags that seem to have been scooped roughly out of a bin marked Random Doll Parts. Or maybe a dumpster behind a daycare. Anyway, the contents are all mismatched and really ought to be washed down before too much handling. I, natch, spilled them out on the rug and decided to wash my hands really well afterward. Before I vacuumed.

**And paperclips (to hold on the ears). And a multitool (gogo Leatherman!) There’s most of a Skipper doll inside the little bun – some bits needed to be trimmed. Honestly, the most difficult part of the transformation was getting the hair off the dollies so that the air-dry Crayola clay would stick to the doll.
And on that note, I must once again mention (I know you’ve heard me say this before): Behold the humble glue stick. Your materials almost never need to be expensive, they just need to do the job. Stuff we used for this project included wood glue, an $8 glue gun, Elmer’s glue sticks, used toys, a sheet of sticky tack, roughly-used dictionaries, a couple of $6 clip lamps (the bulbs were pricier than the lamps!), and kids’ craft air-dry clay. Stay simple, y’all.

***Some of this is down to the user. I was never a kid who played with dollies. Our interns, Alli & Sarah (whom I have been known to refer to fondly as Team Salli) were able to get them both to stand up with far less stress than I.

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†Admittedly, the last one took me 10 years to complete. I’m not proud of that, I just can’t seem to stick to an outline. In my own defense, I did write four short stories and a chapbook worth of poems that applied to the same universe in that time.

††FWIW, there are easily a Brazillion Portugese speakers on the Ragnaros realm in World of Warcraft. And I have pugged with a fair number of them.

†††This is where having two interns was particularly great – one dolly per intern really helped!

‡Sidenote: there’s a serious riot grrrl rant in here somewhere about how dolls marketed to boys, action figures, stand up better than dolls marketed to girls. But since I did happen to add a shitton of weight & counter-intuitive-balanced ears to the figures (not to mention, encased Skipper in an super unnatural position inside that small bunny), this is probably neither the time nor place.

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WooT! We have a fine beginning for the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival trailer – this is the first draft, the proof of concept, if you will, that Audrey (best intern EVAR) and I cooked up today on the repurposed rig. 180 frames, I think.

Next I want to adjust the color and contrast, and crop out the messy stuff on the left and top. Tomorrow is All Photoshop All Day. Please send good thoughts – xoxo

Mercy! Has it really been 17 days since Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival wrapped? It feels like it was just this last weekend, and I am still absolutely flying from it. We had a spectacular weekend celebrating poetry on film – you can see all the good stuff here (pictures) and here  (the finalists) and here (all the films), if you weren’t able to make it, or if you want to relive it (highly recommended! Omg, so much good work!)

I feel like I came out of this year better than I went into it – it’s been a slammin’ year, y’all.* And I was about a week behind the whole time. And I got super ambitious halfway through when I realized we had a glut of Very Good Submissions, so I decided we needed a second day of showings, but hadn’t really thought about the work that entailed (oops). So what I’m saying is that, whoa – I’m kinda proud of myself for getting it together on time.

But more than that, I’m still awash in all the feels about the the festival itself. In a nutshell, even with a couple of late-presenting snafus, it went off beautifully, and I was thrilled with the shows. But more than that, I was thrilled with the connections that happened.

Friends came from across state and out of state. There were lots of hugs, and people got to reunite and to meet each other – some of them who had learned about each other just online. Makers met makers and talked about the things that makers talk about when you get them together. It was more than I could have hoped for.**

Looking down the barrel of the afterparty,*** I very much expected that when everything was put to bed this year, I would be exhausted. But instead I put it down feeling invigorated, inspired, and excited.

One of the things I do at festival is catch as much footage as I can of people talking about the festival. Mostly it’s because I love a souvenir (and also, it’s for grant apps), and there’s nothing nicer than a moving snapshot, hello. But also, it’s because I am a curious creature who’s generally engaged in some research, and primary sources are the best thing in the world for research purposes. So I asked questions – I asked about process, and about favorites, and about what it’s like to be a judge or a filmmaker, or an audience member. I asked What made you do this? I asked How does it feel on this side of the curtain? I asked What do you think about the short film format? I asked How did you pick your collaborators? And it turns out that I know some super smart people who have super smart answers, and I was bowled over, and humbled, and overjoyed to hear the answers.

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September has come and hit me full in the face, and I sincerely cannot believe the shit I’ve gotten myself into. Where do I even start?

Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival is rolling along smoothly, at least. We’re coming up on the last little bit of judging this week, and then it’s on to let the finalists know that their films are moving on. Which is probably the most exciting part of this, outside of the actual festival dates – really, is there anything finer than handing out good news?

In the meanwhile, there are the details: tickets go on sale tomorrow, there’s a final judging party on Tuesday, the shows need to be curated and the program printed, posters need to be made, the trophies need to be constructed… And Sunday Rabbit Heart is the spotlight feature at the 7Hills Poetry reading with Angelique Palmer, so today and tomorrow are going to be a story of mad scrambling to put gear together. Next year we hire an intern, hello. #somanydetails

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Hello, it’s still cold here. Apparently, as of this printing, Worcester, MA is one of the snowiest cities in the US because of this winter,* with somewhere in the area of nine feet of snow on the ground (and more expected tonight – whee). It’s a bit disconcerting that the piles to either side of our driveway are taller than me.** Pulling out into the street requires some faith in other drivers and a keen respect for taking things slow.

Also, I have a new red cast iron, enameled dutch oven. Put these two things together and it’s time to stay in and make soup. Last night I made a fish chowder that was Damn Fine, and I’m here to share it with you.

This baby started with a recipe from Martha and then got manhandled just a little bit. If you look at the original recipe, you’ll notice that while thyme is not listed in the ingredients, it is mentioned in the instructions;*** I improvised. Also, I added shrimp because I like a more stew-like soup, and I pumped the garlic and the bay leaves a dab.

Fish Chowderserves 4 handily

2 tablespoons butter
6 scallions, chopped thin-ish
2 stalks celery, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
16 oz clam juice
3 medium pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped medium
2 bay leaves
1 pound cod pieces
1/2 pound uncooked shrimp
1 cup whole milk
Kosher salt and ground pepper

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So January was a wash. I spent as much of it as I possibly could curled up in bed. I slept like a champion sleeper. I dragged my laptop into the blanket nest and worked on film festival stuff there. I read books in bed. I watched Netflix while working with yarn in bed. I looked at blogs in bed. I snuggled down with Man Cub and watched an entire season of Bob’s Burgers.*  I got intimate with a friend’s (really good) poetry manuscript while wrapped in my orange quilt. Mostly, I got out of bed to handle emergencies involving heating oil** and houshold chores, to play WoW, to go to yoga on Thursdays,*** to grocery shop, and to cook dinner.

But it’s February (white rabbits, white rabbits!) and I’m ready to emerge. I started out the month right yesterday with a delightful breakfast with the afformentioned author friend, and then off to run an assortment of errands. Today I’m going to spend some quality time binding books. February is looking up.

But what I really want to talk about is sauce. Did I mention that I spent a bunch of time in bed reading blogs? One of my favorites is Smitten Kitchen. I’m prone to go fangirl over Deb Perelman – I’ve served her recipes at the family Thanksgiving table for the last three years and it’s gone brilliantly, and her cookbook  is outstanding. Which is the only reason I attempted a sauce that I avoided because every description of it looked like clickbait.****

For serious – this sauce claims to be Something Very Special while being created from the mundane. A can of tomatoes, some butter, and an onion. There is no garlic, there is no basil, there is no stock or glug of red wine, nor is there any olive oil. You don’t even dice the onion. WTF. But Deb Perelman praised it, and that got my attention. She doesn’t publish clunkers.

And I have a new red pot. A Dutch oven, to be specific, but it’s a heavy-bottomed pot (emphasis on heavy – cast iron don’t fuck around, y’all) – Will Dearest gifted me with it after seeing me get wistful over a Le Creuset display last December. So curiosity piqued and red pot in hands, I went to it.

Holy. Carp. Something magical happened in the pot. So I made it again, this time with another brand of tomatoes. Slightly different, but again, freaking magic. When we went shopping yesterday, I bought no less than three cans of tomatoes and three boxes of pasta. The next two weeks hold serious promise. Here’s the scoop.

Three Ingredient Pasta Sauce – will feed four comfortably
(from Tomato Sauce With Onion and Butter on smittenkitchen.com)

1 28-oz can of whole plum tomatoes
5 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, halved

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Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival was huge, and beautiful, and there were no tech hiccups, and there were glamorous gowns and Tony wore a tux, and the venue was perfect, and people came in from New York and San Francisco, and omigod omigod omigod, I am over the moon. Bursting with gratitude to the filmmakers and the people who made it happen, and the people who came out to see it. Over. The. Moon. It was exquisite to watch these films again, and now on the big screen – I saw things that I had missed in previous viewings, I got chills, even. Because look! Look! Look at what happened! Look at what happens when poems and films collide!

This took years for me. It took something like two years worth of just thinking about it before something snapped in me last winter and I pushed my shoulder into it to make it real – just like that. I decided to say yes. Hello, we have a film festival. I am still astounded, and gleefully gobsmacked. No really – I don’t know how to put the words in order.

One of my favorite things about last night was that I got to sit with the filmmakers and the poets after the show was over. And it wasn’t just the finalists – people came in from all over to see the screenings. It was a bar full of people who live art.

At one point I found myself at a table with Josh and Chris, who had come in from New York, Carolyn, who just moved back from the Cape, Lauren, who had come down from NH, and my brother, and I realized, Hey – this is how it happens. Here I am at a table with filmmakers, poets, musicians, dancers, and book-binders. Here I am with the makers. And it is SO good. I was relaxed like I rarely get to feel, and right with the world.

This afternoon I am exhausted. Last night I came home late from the show and did about a zillion web updates before rolling into bed, then got up early to work on a grant app, and have been knee-deep in it all day – there’s still a LOT to do before Wednesday’s postmark – but I don’t feel gross. I feel good on so many levels. Tired, indeed, but honored to be in the work.

What’s say we do this again next year? Yes?
Yes.

It’s tonight. Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival is tonight.

I have the trophies packed up and I’ve signed the checks for the winners. The tickets have sold out, and we’re expecting a packed house. Dearest Will has my back. Our Man Cub has set me up/schooled me in the tech we need & promised to stay at my side through the show. Nick’s has the popcorn machine and the PA under control. Our beautiful ushers and photographers are ready to rock. We have a Plan.* I have a dress picked out and an hour or so to kill before I need to get into it. I took the guys out to breakfast this morning. The post-show web page updates are written as much as they can be pre-show, and the YouTube channel is ready to go live when we get home tonight. Mischief has been managed as well as can be, and tonight we’re going to have a couple hours of Good Times – watch some movies, hand out some prizes, revel in the company of good people. I am so full of gratitude, I am near to bursting.

It’s real, and it’s beautiful, and it’s ON, sister. It’s on.

 

*Is that better than a Way?

Good morning, Get Shit Done day! I’m low on coffee,* high in spirits, and Windows Movie Maker is rendering at the speed of tar.

I’ve done the dishes and set up some tee shirts to dye that I waxed last week and then forgot about. I’ve handled correspondence and cleaned out my email. Cleaned the desk (which is a Really Good Thing, considering the state it was in**). Found my prescription under the pile & renewed it. Started curating the show for Rabbit Heart  (hence the rendering stuff). Packed up goods for the mail, both for Apple Batiks products and for the film festival. Ok, GO.

This is kinda wonderful, being in this space today, and I’m stupid grateful for it. I spent the last week in a bit of a slump, dealing with pain management and some psychic turmoil that had me feeling caged. But yesterday the pain started to lift (Tuesday was shot day \o/), and I had the car during the day, and I started to feel like I was more in gear – that lasted until dinnertime, when I just wanted a finished meal to spring forth fully formed from my brow like another coming of Athena, and then gave up and made some ramen. And then this morning, I’m more like me again, equipped with a big can of FUCK YEH. I’m totally ok with that. I let a lot of stuff slide last week while I was uncomfortable, and it’s nice to see it get taken care of. Tonight I may even make some rice stuffed tomatoes and we can sit together and eat like a family.

And I’m blessing the timing on this – September has just begin, and that means I’m moving into crunch time. With the film festival right around the corner, there’s a bunch of bits and pieces that I need to take care of before October comes to knock and things get really real – the show curating is my biggest concern, and it feels good to be digging in after a solid month of being freaked out about all the how-tos associated with it. (What order should I show the films? Who’s going to run the computer? Can I make all the films in each category into one uninterrupted film? What software should I use? How do I use said software??) File under T for Things That Would Suck: having a full house (we’re sold out! OMG!), and not having something beautiful to present. Now that I’m in the thick of it, I’m less anxious, which makes the process easier, and I’ve started far enough ahead that I have time for The Process to work out if/when things get hinky. If I can manage this part, then all I have to do is get the trophies in order.

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I cannot believe it’s already a week into August. In a few weeks Our Man Cub will be back to school again, tickets for Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival will be on sale, and blessed cooler weather will be back to calm my shit down. And in the meanwhile, I’m pickling. With the air conditioning running.

It starts with the garden patch on the side of the house, where it’s cozy and pleasant. There’s a little wall that separates our property from the apartment complex, and it feels private, even if it really isn’t. I love that garden patch. But it gets iffy sun, and the woman who lived here before us planted day lilies and hosta to accommodate that. Every spring we put in vegetables, and I’ve been experimenting with what will grow there well.

Tomatoes grow, but generally don’t ripen on the vine. Some varieties of melons grow well, sprawling all over and bearing fruit that takes a long time to ripen. Rosemary and oregano love it. Strawberries loooooove it. And the squirrels love the strawberries – we rarely get to eat any, because squirrels get up earlier than we do, as a rule. Pepper plants come up and thrive, but the fruit is small. Zucchini gets us a big plant, and two or three actual zucchinis. Broccoli is a wash – it gets leggy and blooms. Cauliflower seems to be coming up ok, if leggy and smallish.

But cucumbers? Holy carp, cucumbers love the side garden patch. And so every year we put in a few more plants. We plant pickling cukes, because they just taste better to us – Man Cub and I have discovered that we can eat something like our own weight in salted pickling cucumbers. Lately he’s taken to forgoing the salt part and just biting into them in the middle. Last year, in spite of our intentions, we ate all the cucumbers – not a one made it into the pickle jar. So! Good! -urp-

So this year we made a conscious decision to plant enough cucumbers for pickling and eating. We put twenty-odd plants in the ground and let ’em go.

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todays

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