Monday, March 30, 2009

Artists in My Book / Laura Sewell

Happy Women's History Month.

Laura Sewell is one of the Superfine Dinettes. Laura is also one of the choreographers for the Dinettes’ dance moves at the Mermaid Parade and for other shows at Superfine. She also taught me how to make a mermaid tail which became an activity in MERMAIDS ON PARADE.

Q: What is your mermaid name? How did you arrive at that name? 
LS: Gina de la Mer. Gina is short for Regina, which means Queen in Latin, and de la Mer means "of the sea" in French. 
Q: How long have you been a Superfine Dinette? 
LS: I've been with the Dinettes from the very beginning, 2002. Mermaidra (Tanya Rynd) asked me to show some hula moves I picked up in Hawaii to her East River friends; the next thing we knew we were Dinettes. 
Q: What is your contribution to the Dinettes for the Mermaid Parade? 
LS: I help the Dinettes create something from their ideas, realize their dreams. That means coordinating the logistics involved, from inviting everyone to rehearsal to writing down the movements in the order we've decided. Being like a constant rock in the sea through the process, while the group creativity swirls around. Helping the new ones decorate their tails (like I did with you, MerMel) and apply their false eyelashes on the bus. So our diverse group of amateur performers hits the parade with the confidence and charisma of seasoned pros. 
Q: What does Coney Island represent to you? 
LS: At the turn of the century, Coney was another planet just a subway ride away: Dreamland and Luna Park were fantastic, magical, world-class. The wonderfully inventive spirit of the Mermaid Parade honors those memories with our annual sprinkle of glitter on her sands. But Coney Island deserves to sparkle every day! 
Q: What are you currently working on? 
LS: I do visual styling and production work for top-notch commercial clients. You can see some of the beautiful images I've helped create at my website.
I've long wanted to expand the definition of myself as an artist to use more of my brain-storming, big-picture talents. The Municipal Art Society's "Imagine Coney" initiative gave the public an opportunity to submit their ideas for the future of Coney Island. You can see the ideas, including some of what I was inspired to write (#206-211 in the gallery section) here.
I also hope to apply my gift for mobilizing people (and mermaids!) to including disenfranchised Coney lovers in the local government processes that will determine it's future. 

Thanks Laura!

* Gina de la Mer in MERMAIDS ON PARADE
* Laura Sewell on the Superfine bus going to the Mermaid Parade.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

COMMUNITY / Teachers

Happy Women's History Month.
My cousin Michelle is a second grade teacher at PS 133 in Queens. We grew up in the Bronx and not in luxury. For anyone out there who thinks they need tons of money to go far... think again. It takes education, imagination and self effort to rise up to your highest dreams. Go for it!

Q: Why are picture books important for elementary students? 

MA: Elementary students are taught to use picture cues to help them comprehend the text of the book. They pause to look for additional information that the text alone doesn't provide. 

Q: What kinds of picture books do your students enjoy? 

MA: Young students enjoy picture books that are funny and unusual. They love colorful pictures. 

Q: How do you choose books for your classroom library? 

MA: Teachers select books that tie into a unit or subject that they are teaching. For Women's History Month I looked for easy to read biographies about Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman and Amelia Earhart. The children enjoyed seeing the sign alphabet that Helen learned when she was about seven years old. 

Q: What impact has MERMAIDS ON PARADE made on your students? 

MA: My class loved hearing about mermaids. They love the whole idea of a parade to welcome summer. They love that it's near the ocean and that the people dress up as creatures from the sea. 
Thanks Michelle!

Where I grew up on Boynton Avenue in the Bronx. My building is next to the bank. Michelle's grandmother, my great aunt Helen, lived in my building. I took this photo from the elevator train station at Elder Ave.

Two Hopes: Melanie Hope Greenberg and her cousin, Michelle Hope Attar at Melanie's book launch party at Superfine.

Monday, March 23, 2009

EVENTS/ PS 58 Art Show

My residency with PS 58 lives on.
To celebrate Nature and Ecology on the first day of Spring, the second graders had an art opening. They built this huge city out of recyled garbage.

How cool that they added a street, sidewalks, dogs and a bus stop. Very creative!
I am so proud of all the students, teachers and parents who participated in this great project. THANK YOU!

Charles and Stella Branstool enjoy cupcakes and pretzel sticks at the art opening. You can purchase MERMAIDS ON PARADE at their shop, Exit 9.

Top Photo Credit: Angus Killick

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

EVENTS/ The Moxie Spot

Sunday, March 22, 2009 11:00 am -12 pm

The Moxie Spot 81 Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn 718-923-9710

“Celebrate Our City”

Melanie will be reading and signing her picture books.

A CITY IS written by Brooklyn's poet laureate.
GOOD MORNING, DIGGER written by Anne Rockwell.

Plus a FUN, FREE Cityscape Art Project to take home.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Happy Women’s History Month. Tanya Rynd is one of three women owners of Superfine, a 2005 NYC Small Business Award winner to help “shape, serve and improve the lives of women”. Their kid friendly restaurant, gallery, and performance space is a hub in the Dumbo Brooklyn arts scene. In 2005, Tanya invited me to join the Superfine Dinettes, her home spun performance art troupe, to march in the Mermaid Parade.

So forevermore, Superfine’s three owners, Tanya Rynd, Cara Lee Sparry and Laura Taylor will always march inside the pages of MERMAIDS ON PARADE. Their creativity allows me a place to go where women are smart, strong, own their power and are respected for it. I plan on interviewing all the owners.

Today we start with Tanya Rynd, a natural impresario, consummate people person and a community connector. Her goal is to present live art and music to the public. I’ve always wondered what goes on inside the mind of someone who runs a restaurant while booking musicians, curating art shows, who also writes, paints and performs.

Q: When did you start to march in the Mermaid Parade? 

TR: In 1997 I went to the Mermaid parade with Cara Lee Sparry. I wore two inch long silver eyelashes, a silver dress and a plastic fish as a necklace. Watching the parade I felt swept up in the tide of mermaids instantly. The next year I began to march in the parade and have continued consistantly for the next 10 years. In 1998 I found my mermaid name, Mermaidra, Queen of the Deep. Cara Lee who is a genius costumer has always been my comrade in creating and living the mermaid parade.

The Parade is a ritual for the summer solstice - the longest day of the year. King Neptune and Queen Mermaid have opened up the sea for all mermaids to walk on land for one day. In all of their forms, in all their diversities, the sea creatures spill onto the streets and boardwalk. What is truly remarkable about the parade is that it encompasses so much creativity and self expression. Just when I thought that I came up with something original and smart there is always someone else’s interpretation of the this ritual that makes me marvel with awe and laughter. A tremendous tidal pool of so many great minds in the ocean of New York, I always feel the parade is a celebration of the imagination! One of my all time favorite troupes in the parade was "Sushi and the Banshees" where all the members were pieces of sushi, including wasabi boy. The parade is an experience where adults can be as smart as children and children can be smarter than the adults because they already impart fantasy and imagination as reality. Towards the end of the parade the King and Queen lead us through the four seasons, cutting ribbons, and opening the ocean. For me, Melanie's book, MERMAIDS ON PARADE captures the very essence of why the parade is important- she captured the actual ritual and celebration of the creative and playfulness of being alive whether it be on the land or the sea. 

Q: What is the evolution of the Superfine Dinettes? 

TR: In 2002, I formed a mermaid dance troupe that later became known as The Superfine Dinettes. We are a group of women who gather specifically to march in the parade, to create a theme and dance presentation that changes each year. We are diehard mermaids, many of us imbue the lore and fantasy of the mermaid. The dance troupe is about self expression as
strong women/mermaids, and really about having fun. Some take turns choreographing numbers; we all join in picking music and creating the theme of our costumes, then personalizing that costume to oneself. Here are some of the examples of our Mermaid Parade Names that the Superfine Dinettes created:
2002: Dolly Parton Huki Lau, Nookie Laters 
2003: The Esther Williams Fin Club 
2004: Mermaids Gone Wild 
2005: The Mermod Squad 
2006: The East River Mermaids 
2007: The Ladies Mermalade 
2008: The Hip Hop Hula Mermaids 
2009: TBA 

Q: How does Superfine connect the arts community together? 

TR: All three owners, Tanya Rynd, Cara Lee Sparry and Laura Taylor are artists and were pioneers in Dumbo as artists and residents long before Superfine was even created. One of the main goals for Superfine and reasons we created Superfine was to connect the community with each other, which is an art in itself. To also create a space that supported art and music and was an actually living art piece. As one of the directors and producers of Superfine I feel that everyday we succeed in being present as a space that is dedicated to artists. Every three weeks we present an artist (painter, photographer, installation artist, illustrator, collaborater, collage...) on our thirty foot art wall. We present local musicians every week for over eight
years. Every day I am engaged in hearing about, promoting and encouraging other people's independent dreams and art projects. One of my goals in our project is that people would come together there to actively communicate with each other, that the art of networking one on one would be present and it is! I have always wanted people to be engaged with each other and to participate. I feel that Superfine encourages people, even in how it is designed, to dare to express themselves. The art of making food everyday with love does translate to the people and I think our food connects our community together as well. 

Thank you, Tanya aka Mermaidra, Queen of the Deep!

Superfine sells MERMAIDS ON PARADE at 126 Front St Brooklyn 718.243.0095

* Tanya Rynd at her recent birthday party
* Tanya rehearsing with the Dinettes 2005
* Mermaid Parade 2008
* Tanya performing at her recent birthday party.
Photo Credits: Herb Hernandez

Friday, March 6, 2009

School Visits: PS 58 Residency - Part 3

PS 58 Part 1
PS 58 Part 2
Brooklyn Heights Blog PS 58

I finished the PS 58 residency with the second graders on February 25, 2009. A community was built. Garbage became art. Something to value rather than throw away. Shout to all the students I met at PS 58. Love Nature and yourselves. It’s all connected.

Candy Store


Pizza Place


Apartment building

What’s this going to be?

The student's community grew quickly.

Photo: Melanie Hope Greenberg, art teacher, Megan Driscoll and assistant art teacher, Jane Rothberg with Barack Obama.
Photo Credit: Regina Rosario

School Visits: The Neighborhood School-PS 63

I returned to present two author-illustrator workshops in the library for PS 63 and The Neighborhood School in the East Village. Both schools share the same library. I had been there in 2005. School librarian, Cheryl Wolf, had received over 150 books I had to read for the 2005 SCBWI Golden Kite Awards when I was the judge. It was great to see how the books filled up her library shelves. First and second graders became acquainted with my books. I read from MERMAIDS ON PARADE and drew what the students suggested. Thanks for inviting me again!

Image: Melanie Hope Greenberg and Cheryl Wolf in the library at PS 63-The Neighborhood School.

Monday, March 2, 2009

COMMUNITY / Mom and Pop Stores *Interview: Exit 9*

During October 2007, Exit 9 Gift Emporium owners Christy Davis and Charles Branstool opened their second shop at 127 Smith Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. They felt connected to the community because they lived in the neighborhood. It was their misson "to provide creative and inspirational gifts in a world that is quickly becoming a department store”.

The neighborhood also knew Christy as the drummer in the popular kid rock band, Audra Rox. And their daughter, Stella, attends PS 58.
I am so happy and grateful that Exit 9 carries my book, MERMAIDS ON PARADE.

Q: Why did you decide to open Exit 9 in Brooklyn? How long have you been in Cobble Hill? 
Charles: There were a couple reasons why we wanted to open in Brooklyn. We have lived in the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill area for over a decade. We witnessed the transformation that took place on Smith St (and Brooklyn as a whole). And we saw the business opportunities that were opening up there. But more importantly, we both wanted a work place that was close to home. 
Christy: I had to convince Charles to open another store as he was growing tired even with just the one store. We would often talk about the "what ifs" of the East Village store in terms of our lease running out, being priced out, etc, so I thought it wise to open another store in a neighborhood that had nothing like Exit 9. Fortunately it happened to be in our neighborhood. It's been a lot of work, but in the end, I'm glad we opened the Brooklyn location. 

Q: How does your "mom and pop" store support the neighborhood? 
Charles: Yes, we are literally a "Mom and Pop" store. We actively donate to the public school system. Our daughter is a student at PS 58 and our store is located very close to PS 261. We have built a very symbiotic relationship with both places. We work closely with the PTA by donating many items to the school functions and advertising in their publications. And in return, we get a lot of support from that part of the community. 

Christy: In addition to school fundraisers, we have donated to many other organizations such as the Lower East Side Girls Club, organizations that help underprivileged children & women, NYU Law students, etc. It feels good to help out the community.

Q: When did you start marching in the Mermaid Parade? 

Christy: I honestly can't remember the year exactly, but I think it was around 1998. I went with my two dear friends, Tanya and Cara Lee, who own Superfine restaurant and who, (as you very well know Melanie) are diehard Mermaid Parade participants! 

Q: What is your favorite thing about marching in the Mermaid Parade? 
Stella: I love to be able to see some of my friends that I don't see very often and I love to be able to hula hoop with them. I really have a lot of fun the whole day and it's really great! 

Q: Anything else coming up with your very creative family?

Christy: I just bought an electric guitar and I am going to be doing a recording with my friend Matt. I have recorded many many times with bands or for other people's projects, but this will be my first time recording by my songs by myself. (Well, I will be calling on some friends to play certain instruments, but it's my project.) Oh, and Stella will be playing piano on a couple of songs as well. I am really looking forward to it!! 

Thanks Charles, Christy and Stella!

I love the mom and pop stores. I write and illustrate books about the laundormant and the supermarket. My father owned a luncheonette when I growing up in the Bronx and I wrote a book about it.
Support your local merchants!

Photo Credit Top: MKMetz

United States Bookstores Carry Melanie's Books

Here's where you can find my books in the United States.
A special shout out to these stores. THANKS!!

If you are a bookstore or find a bookstore that carries my titles,
I'll link that store on the blog. Please let me know.
Contact at my website.

* ERIC CARLE MUSEUM (Massachusetts)
* STORYBOOK COVE (Massachusetts)
* THE BRIAR PATCH 27 Central St, Bangor, Maine 04401, 207-941-0255
* WHALE'S TALE (New Jersey)