Seven Impossible Things!

Here is a cool thing: a few weeks ago I joined Julie Danielson for toast and avocado on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, one of the best and favorite blogs about children's books in the whole world. No other words need be said here.

Here's the link if you want to have a look:

Ancient Stuffed Animals and the (Kids and) Adults Who Love Them

Since writing SAM and JUMP, I have learned that many of my adult friends still have their original stuffed lovies. Here you will find a collection of stories about the furless, hairless, eyeless, darling and beloved stuffed animals that many of us olds still treasure and protect with our lives. What is it the magic that makes this so?

This from my friend, Emilie Coulter, with a little food for thought:

"This is Paddy. He's been with me for more than 40 years. I've never, ever lost him, but your request is making me realize why I'm having a hard time with my 10-year-old daughter's suggestion that we operate on him to repair his floppy head and squashed belly. What if he's not the same ol' Paddy when he emerges from surgery? And do I really want him to be fat and sturdy and straight-eyed again? His wonky eyes and caved-in body and weak neck and - most of all - his well-kissed threadbare nose were all earned honestly."


From my pal Jennifer Longo:

My newest picture book, SAM and JUMP, launched this week! I am so happy with it, and feeling very grateful for the love that it was shown during the entire creative process by my wonderful team at Candlewick Press. They really know how to make children's books, you know? Anyway, I have found that my story of a lost beloved stuffed animal has touched a chord with more than a few adults, and I want to share some of the stories I have heard.

I am all a-wonder at this phenomenon shared by so many adults (including me), of having loved a particular stuffed animal so much as a child that they continue to cherish, worry about, and protect them with their lives, well into adulthood, and probably until their last days! I've received several sweet stories of critters that adult friends have kept all these long years, or of their children's critters that have cast powerful love spells on the adults who love and worry about both the kid and the critter. (If I was a psychology researcher, I think I'd have a pretty interesting research topic here...!)

How do these bits of fur and fluff exert such pull on our heartstrings?

I want to share all of these wonderful stories with you, but I better do it one at a time. To kick this off, here's the story of a lovely bunny named Mai Mai, pictured above, who spent a lonely rainy night under the tire of a car, from my friend the brilliant YA novelist Jennifer Longo:

So, this is Mai Mai... Who my family was delighted to notice looks a lot like jump! We brought our daughter home from foster care when she was one year old. We had given her an elephant stuffy while visiting her at her temp home before ours, and we bought three of them, hoping she would attach to that guy and we would have back-ups in case the elephant got lost. But a few months after being with us, while trying to strap her screaming and arching her back into her car seat, my husband grabbed the closest thing he could find, which was this bunny, and he was speaking for the bunny in a funny voice to distract her. From that moment on our Lia was never without the bunny who she began calling Mai Mai, a name we think was conflated with her starting to learn to say 'mama'. She teethed on him and slept with him, took him everywhere always. We moved to a new city a year later and on a rainy Night we went out to dinner, came home and realized that Mai Mai was missing. We called the restaurant, a gas station, looked for hours and all of us were crying, worried about if he was OK or scared and we just felt sick! My husband went out into the dark stormy night to search the car for the fifth time, and my daughter and I sat in the living room and cried, knowing Mai Mai was lost forever. Then suddenly, there was my husband pressing Mai Mai against the dark rain battered window! We had dropped him as we got her out of her car seat and he had fallen behind the car tire, rain soaked and muddy on the driveway. We were so giddy we cried and laughed and nearly passed out with relief! And from then on the rule was, Mai Mai NEVER leaves the house! We found a back up bunny in a different color who is called Bluey who travels...we've never lost him! When our daughter was five we brought a puppy home and I caught him with Mai Mai in his mouth, shaking him and about to rip him apart! Miraculously, I caught him just in time so there was only one small hole on Mai Mai's booty :)  Our daughter was emotionally torn, as she loved the new puppy so much but she also obviously loved Mai Mai... She couldn't be mad, it wasn't the puppie's fault. We learned to keep all stuffies out of reach. I sewed a heart-shaped patch on the hole on Mai Mai's back side  and it reminds us we almost lost our dear bunny twice. 

Send me your stories!

This is Ted. He belongs to my college-bound daughter. Teddy has been her beloved from the age of three months, and has only spent a few fraught nights away from her. But those nights away were some very dark nights, for my girl, for Ted, and for me! 

To a small child, the loss of a stuffy is genuinely heart breaking, because, to them, they have lost a part of themselves, or a loved one.

When Ted went missing, I felt my child's pain acutely. But what was surprising to me was the depth of my own concern for the well-being of Ted. I, the adult, was worried about what Ted was experiencing, and just how profoundly lonely and cold he must be without his sweet girl. I also remembered being a child whose favorite Raggedy Ann doll spent the night at the beach, and how worried I was for her. Those feelings have stuck with me for a very long time.

And so I wrote SAM and JUMP.

To honor the release of my next picture book SAM and JUMP, I'm collecting stories of your (or your favorite stuffed animal or doll from your childhood, and what happened when that stuffy was lost. Please send them to me at, and I'll share them here with your permission.


Stacks and boxes of SAM and JUMP are on their way! This is the stack of author's copies that landed on my doorstep a few days ago.  The book will be available in bookstores and to ship in less than two weeks, and I am busy getting ready to celebrate!

I hope that if you are in the Seattle area you can come out to one of my book launch parties and help me celebrate! Bring your beloved stuffed animal, or your stories of lost and found beloveds. There may even be cupcakes!

Tuesday, May 10 (Publication Day!), 7 pm, Secret Garden Books, Ballard Neighborhood, Seattle Secret Garden is a beautiful neighborhood bookstore dedicated to children's books. Parking is easiest to find in some of the inexpensive pay lots behind Secret Garden. 

Sunday, May 15, 1 pm Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island. My neighborhood bookstore! It's just a short walk from the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal. Make a day of it--lots of other great things to do on foot in Winslow, including a world class museum, lots of coffee and pastries, yarn, art, clothes, and of course, books!

Saturday, May 29, 11 am, Green Bean Books, Alberta Neighborhood, Portland. Green Bean Books is a tiny, beautiful gem of a children's bookstore in a cool Portland neighborhood. Stay for lunch afterwards!

boys on the beach.jpg

Hope to see you! Introduce yourself if I haven't already met you.

My 'other' blog--The Whatsits

Good morning!

There's new stuff happening over at my picture book critique group's blog, The Whatsits, including this most recent post from me, about why I love quiet picture books.

From The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

From The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

On Bunnies and Teds and Other Beloveds, and the Sorrow of Losing Them

I have a new picture book coming out shortly, called Sam and Jump (Candlewick, 5/10). It's the story of a little boy named Sam and his beloved stuffed bunny named Jump. Sam loves Jump so much that they do everything together. Even at the beach, Jump is Sam's loyal companion.

But after a fun day of beach play with a new friend named Thomas,

Sam accidentally leaves Jump behind, and realizes it when it's already too late to turn back. A long night of dark imaginings ensues for poor Sam.

I remember years ago when my daughter left her beloved Ted behind on one of our many local errands. When we realized Ted was missing, we had no idea where he was, and it was too late to go looking. My mind was instantly divided into two lanes of worry--one for my poor girl who was beside herself with sorrow for her lost beloved, and the other for Ted himself, who suddenly, for me, had real emotions and could experience loneliness and despair much like my living and breathing child. What if poor Ted was lying in a ditch somewhere, unable to call for help? What if he was closed into a dark store for an entire night, and was terrified, all alone? I realized in that moment that even as an adult, I could transfer some of my own fears and sorrows onto a grubby, limp, but adorable teddy bear. And if this was eating me up, what was it doing to my sweet little girl? She did manage to sleep that night, eventually, but Ted was the first thing on her mind in the morning. We eventually located Ted, who had in fact spent a glorious night unchaperoned in our little wonderful hardware store. I can only imagine the fun he had.

Thankfully, my daughter's love expanded to include other stuffed animals, and of course playmates and friends who became important in her life in new and wonderful ways. Now she is eighteen, and just so you know, Ted still occupies the place of honor--near her pillow--with his pal Elephant. They live a good safe life there.

Ted and Elephant.jpg

Do you have a lost Teddy story? Let me know!


I do sketch from time to time. (actually, a lot) Sometimes I think my sketches have a little something that makes them worth sharing. Sometimes my sketches are so bad. I probably won't share the bad stuff here. But I will try to share some of what interests me, because I hope it will interest you.

PiBoIdMo--oh yeah!

I rarely commit to public writing or drawing events, because I don't like to announce to the world that I am going to do something when I know very well that I probably won't. I feel the same way about book groups--I just am never sure I can truly commit to reading that book that we are all going to talk about next month. 

But, for some reason, this year I have decided to actually commit, yes, to this terrific picture book endeavor called PiBoIdMo. I, Jennifer K. Mann, will try my hardest to come up with THIRTY (maybe more) new picture book ideas before the end of November!

And I am off to a good start, because just by deciding to commit (personally and publicly) the ideas have been flowing in. I'm collecting the extras up front, because there will be more than a few days this month when I may be distracted with other responsibilities. 

Now, you should know, there is no one checking to see that my ideas are good ones--I guess I will need to be the judge of that. I sure am hoping that there is at least one great idea among the many I hope to come up with. And even if all I have is a ton of not-so good ideas, at least I will have tried. Right?

You can find lots of information about PiBoIdMoand, and inspiration from guest bloggers at Tara Lazar's blog, here. Tara has created an amazing, supportive and inspiring community of writers and illustrators all in pursuit of the elusive perfect picture book idea. You don't have to be published to jump in--you just have to want to jot down thirty ideas for possible picture books before the end of November. If I can do it, you can do it.

Blogging is not dead.

Blogging is not dead! Not even close. In fact, I think it is on an upswing, and it is re-emerging smarter and more relevant than ever. Kind of like the picture book industry, after the last horrible recession.

Take for example this new blog, The Whatsits (to which I am a contributor). It is going to be a smart blog to follow, with lots of great posts about how these terrific children's book makers do their thing: Wendy Wahman, Ben Clanton, Kevan Attebury, Elizabeth Rose Stanton and me.

We are The Whatsits, friends, picture book makers, a critique group, and now a blog.

I posted on The Whatsits today about my virtual mentors: those masters of the picture book form, upon whom I have relied to teach me much of what I know simply by having books out in the world. Take a look! And check back there often.

We Should Have Coffee!

I wish I could sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee with each one of you who pops in here now and then to see what I am up to. But that would be impractical, so instead I'll just catch you up right now with some of my current goings-on.

First, it is now public information that my picture book Two Speckled Eggs is a finalist in the Washington State Book Awards! Other finalists include my wonderful friends George Shannon, and Jennifer Longo. The thing is, there is no shortage of wonderful books being created in the State of Washington, so this feels like an amazing and exciting honor! You can read the list of finalists in every category here.

(Update! Update! Two Speckled Eggs won! Two Speckled Eggs was awarded the Washington State Book Award in the picture book category! You can read the press release here. I couldn't be more thrilled, and I am so grateful to the Washington State librarians and booksellers who read it and appreciated it, nominated it, and ultimately selected it. It just makes me want to work harder and create more worthy books. Thank you all!)

Not too long ago I turned in the final art for my next picture book to be published by Candlewick Press, due out in May of 2016. It's called Sam and Jump, and I am very excited about this book! I I can't wait to share some more of the art with you, but I'm not allowed to quite yet. I will tantalize you with the cover and one little morsel, however:

I'm currently working on illustrations for a picture book written by Allison McGhee, to be published by Boyd's Mill Press, titled Percy: Dog of Destiny. It features four high-action hounds and a sassy squirrel. I love dogs, and thankfully I have a couple of nutty ones myself to inspire me. You'll just have to wait a bit to see what's in the works for Percy and his pals. It's possible (but not definite, mind you) that someone in that story might look something like this:

Next weekend I will be a presenter at the SCBWI Inland Northwest Annual Conference. I think there might still be a spot or two remaining if you are interested in hearing me talk about how to analyze a picture book, or if you'd like to participate in a workshop on character design. Pressure's on though--I've heard they've had a record number of illustrators register for the conference this year. This is the first time I've presented at a conference, and I am pretty dang excited about it. I do really like talking to people about kids' books!

I've been noodling around with a stack of picture book ideas for my next project, and one of those ideas smacked me upside the head yesterday with a completely new twist that I actually think just might work, and that feels really exciting! (There is no feeling like it, as some of you may agree!) I pounded out the first draft yesterday afternoon, and then It disturbed my sleep--which is a very good sign. So hopefully more on that soon.

My picture book critique group, The Whatsits, is about to launch an exciting new blog! We are going to have a lot of fun catching you up and filling you in on all kinds of things relating to picture books. Keep your eyes peeled for the The Whatsits, which will be launching sometime next week.

Then lets see... My picture book I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard has garnered some very nice praise, plus mentions on kidlit podcasts and back-to-school round-ups and the like. 

It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, a very sweet review from the Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal, a featured moment on John Schumaker's Watch Connect Read aka Mr Schu Reads, and a loving shout-out from Carter Higgins on Matthew Winner's terrific podcast, Lets Get Busy, and was part of an Amazon Editor's Picks for Back to School books. All of these, among other really nice mentions and reviews.

This book means a lot to me, as you've heard me say before, so it makes me feel great that it means something to lots of other people too.

That's a lot of news! It's been a fun and busy summer, and the fall is off to a really great start! I hope that's true for you too. 

A Character Design Workshop for kids

So, today I taught a really fun workshop to a bunch of really creative kids at the Bainbridge Island branch of the Kitsap Regional Library. It was a full house, with twelve bums in chairs doing the hard work of CHARACTER DESIGN!

I brought a stack of favorite books with wonderfully designed characters.

I loaded up a couple of tables with a lot of collage materials and markers and glue and scissors and hole punchers and string and stuff.

I talked for a minute or two about character design (clothes, hair, eyes, accessories, setting, backstory, size, shape, species, etc etc).

I asked them to think of themselves as characters--human, animal, whatever they thought was right. What could they express about themselves with a drawing or a collage or both?

I taught them how to use tracing paper to make patterns for cutting out collage materials to give their characters (or their settings) some, well, character! 

And then I let the kids get making.

And make they did.

Their infectious creativity inspired me.

And two hours was not nearly enough for all the fun we had.

Blueberry Summers

Blueberries taste like my childhood.

My mother and stepfather lived for most of my childhood in a magical house on a hilltop covered in wild blueberries. Fresh blueberry muffins were a summertime staple in our family.

I had a hankering yesterday for blueberry muffins, so I went looking in the one place that probably had just the right recipe.

My mom always saved her favorite recipes by writing them in the blank pages of her favorite cookbook, or stuffing them in its pages. First it was her Joy of Cooking. Then, when it disintegrated with use, The New York Times Cookbook. I am now the keeper of that particular treasure trove, and for the first time since she died, I dug it out to look for her favorite blueberry muffin recipe.

It was there as I hoped, along with a whole lot of other memories and feelings and treasured tastes.

I’ve got some cooking to do this summer.

Just how long does it take to make a picture book?

People sometimes want to know: Just how long does it take to make a picture book?


And the answer, of course, is “it depends.”

How long it will take to create and publish a picture book depends, of course, on what you consider the start and the finish. If you start with that moment when you first had a little flash of recognition that you might have an idea that could be a picture book, and end with the day you see your idea as a glorious hard-cover, full-color picture book in your neighborhood bookstore—that might take as long as ten years. It did for me. It might take longer!

If you are both the author and the illustrator, it also depends on all of this: how long it takes to go from idea to story; how many times you are willing to write the same idea in different ways; how many times you are willing to share it with your critique group, at conferences, with teachers, with wise people, with your family, with friends, with publishing professionals; how many bad sketches you are willing to make; how many dummies you put together; how courageous you are; who you know; how the economy is doing; how patient you are; if you have an agent; how hard you work; how willing you are to scrap it all and start over; how many unpredictable bombs life throws your way; how determined you are to have your idea published!

Then, if after all of that, you are lucky enough to get your foot in the door, and actually sell your idea to a publisher, it depends on who your editor is, who your art director is, how long it takes to get the story details right, how long it takes to create the art, how long it takes to fix the art, how long it takes to get the cover right. And then it takes at least another year, because your book has to be proofed, and approved, transmitted overseas to be printed, and then it has to make its slow, leisurely way back to your favorite bookstore on the slow boat from China—literally.

Is it worth it? Totally. Take it from me, it's worth every short minute.

This particular book is really my first born, the one I learned on, even though it is the second to be published. It’s been a long journey to this day. Thanks go out to a million people who had anything to do with this book being published. But the following people played a direct role in making my dream come true, whether they know it or not: Patti Lee Gauch, SCBWI Western Washington, Margaret Nevinski, Dawn Simon, SCBWI Don Freeman Committee, Michael Stearns, Elizabeth Parisi, SCBWI International, Grace Maccarone, Holly McGhee, Elena Giaovinazzo, Kate Fletcher, Heather McGee, Kevan Attebury, Elizabeth Rose Stanton, Wendy Wahman, Ben Clanton, and my patient and supportive family. 

Today is the release day for I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard. It takes a village, a team, a family, and a lot of good friends to make a picture book! Thank you all so much!

Me, in a museum...?

It's crazy but true!

From October 11-February 22, my picture book art will be featured in an exhibit of children’s book creators at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, including the amazing art of Julie Paschkis, Woodleigh Marx Hubbard, and Nikki McClure. Visitors will be treated to an unusual peak behind-the-scenes of picture book making, seeing up-close the stops and starts that each artist experiences on their way to creating beautiful books for children.

You'll will see some things of mine that have never before been seen in public---woo woo! Like this early study for Two Speckled Eggs:

EGGS study.jpg

There will some parties, and some gallery talks and some workshops, and you'll just have to check back here in the near future for all of the juicy details about those sorts of things.

I hope you'll make it to our lovely museum to see this unusual exhibit. It never costs a thing to visit the Bainbridge Island Art Museum.

Take a minute to read this wonderful post about the exhibit by Julie Paschkis, on the blog Books Around the Table, by clicking here.


Welcome to The Writing Process: an Author/Illustrator Blog Tour!

Oh hello. Welcome to the Writing Process Author/Illustrator Tour!

I’ve tried to tidy up a little around the house and studio, but you may as well know--I put more effort into my children’s books than I do into housekeeping, so…just ignore the dog-hair dust bunnies, and those spiders over there are just part of the fabric of the place, literally.

You are here because I was tagged to join the The Writing Process Blog Tour by my good friend and critique partner Elizabeth Rose Stanton, who you will know as the creator of the amazing Henny. A big thanks to her for passing the baton to me. It's always good to have a reason to tidy up!

Beth and I have a crazy amount of stuff in common, including these three things: we both have degrees in architecture, we are both married to architects, and we both assign human-qualities to our favorite white chickens! 

This is my late hen, Alice, passing on dangerous secrets to Hedgehog, shortly before being eaten by the bandit, Racoon.

This is my late hen, Alice, passing on dangerous secrets to Hedgehog, shortly before being eaten by the bandit, Racoon.

On to the tour!

What am I currently working on?

I just launched my first book as an author and an illustrator, which is really over-the-moon exciting!! It's published by Candlewick, a fact which causes me to pinch myself on a daily basis. 

TWO SPECKLED EGGS has been quietly promoting itself while I finish up the final art for the next book of mine that Candlewick is willing to publish, which I will tell you about in a minute. TWO SPECKLED EGGS is above all a friendship book, but it is also a birthday book, and it’s a teeny bit autobiographical. It is about a girl named Ginger, whose long anticipated birthday party goes awry, as they often do. The day is saved by Lyla Browning, the one girl Ginger didn’t even want to invite in the first place.

I hope to hit the road this summer and do some real promoting of this book! A few story-times here and there, and some school visits in the fall, reading TWO SPECKLED EGGS to willing listeners.

If you happen to see this book out in the world, send me a photo! Or better yet, buy it, and send me a photo! 

The book I am finishing up for Candlewick right now is called I DEFINITELY WILL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS BENSON’S BLACKBOARD, (or STAR as we call it when we are in a hurry). It is about a day-dreamy child called Rose, who just can’t get on the same page with her rather teacherly teacher.

They do eventually find common ground, but not until Rose has a day or two that would send most of us back to bed. If you happened to be in my second grade class at Blueberry Hill Elementary School, you might know which teacher inspired this tale.

Here are some of Rose's (tidier, more focused) classmates:

I wish I could show you more from I DEFINITELY WILL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS BENSON'S BLACKBOARD, but it is all super top-secret, guarded by three-headed dogs. Unless you come to my house--then I could show it to you, and we could have cake and tea, while the three-headed dogs loll around in the sun. STAR is due out just about a year from now, so keep an eye out for it during the spring or summer of 2015.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is such a hard question. I see that Mike Curato also thinks it is a hard question. Hmm, well… I think my work is somewhat different because I am utterly untrained in the area of writing for children, and illustrating for children. Sometimes I feel I am just swinging my pencil with my eyes closed, hoping the ideas hit the paper and not the wall. Not really-- I mean I went to college. And I got a masters degree in architecture. So I have practiced writing and drawing from time to time. But creating books for children is not writing papers on the French Revolution, nor is it drawing window framing details. So when I am really banging my head against the wall because I-have-no-idea-what-I-am-doing, I remind myself that my lack of training means that my work is fresh, and unique, and all mine.

Why do I write what I write?

My favorite stories to write are the ones that spring pretty directly from an emotional memory from my childhood. I’ll remember a time when I felt that I was the victim or the perpetrator of an injustice, and just how that felt at age four or five or six or seven--and then I have a story. The more I access memories of my childhood, the more I have access to them—just last week I woke up with a vivid memory from a challenging time in my family when I was very, very young. It’s now at the top of my list of future book ideas.

How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?

I can’t really say how my writing process works, because it is still a mystery to me. I just write whenever I can, and especially when a not-ignorable idea pops into my head.

And I am growing as an illustrator, so each project is just a little different from the last.

But, once I am really excited about a story, and I have fleshed out the text for a bit, then I start doodling and pretty quickly hash out images for various scenes on rolls of architectural tracing paper (cheap, plentiful, and not at all intimidating). I tear it off and mound it up, and before you know it I am on my way with a sketch dummy!

My desk, in the early stages of my new work-in-progress. Exciting, huh?

My desk, in the early stages of my new work-in-progress. Exciting, huh?

My final art process for these first books has been a somewhat complicated and labor-intensive combination of traditional drawing and painting, and digital collage. And I do it this way out of fear. Yep. Here it is—I am fearful of committing to a final composition that is not 100% changeable. And glue dries hard and fast and is not at all flexible. So I do all of my collage-ing in Photoshop, which allows me to change everything (almost) right up until the minute I have to commit to making it a PDF that I can send to my book designer. (Ha! There, I named my fear publicly, now maybe it will go away.) Sometimes I do have to go back to the very beginning, and redraw and rescan and repaint and rescan and recollage, but mostly I have total flexibility in this process, and I like it that way. (But, I think my current, secret, work-in-progress may be different, which I guess makes sense, but different in a different way, if you know what I mean) Sometimes I add in photographs or collaged textures that I have created or found on the internet (only the ones that are available for download without copyright!).

Okay, well, my time is up, and you have other blogs to visit, so I’ll let you go.

Next up on your tour are Sarah Dillard and Laurie Thompson .

Sarah is the creator of the recently released EXTRAORDINARY WARREN--A SUPER CHICKEN,

which is about the funniest, most optimistic chicken you will ever meet. Sarah and I know one another from an author/illustrator retreat that we like to go to in the middle of the winter in Vermont. She's got a sense of humor a lot like Warren's.

Laurie is the creator of the very soon to be released (September, 2014) BE A CHANGE MAKER-HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS 

and two exciting non-fiction picture books: Emmanuel’s Dream , and My Dog Is the Best, both launching in 2015 (January and May, respectively). Laurie and I are a part of the cohort that calls itself The Advisory Committee of the Western Washington SCBWI, and we’ve known one another for quite some time. 

Enjoy the rest of the tour, and come back to visit any time!

Five Questions (Plus One) from Candlewick, and answers from me!

Um. Yes, it's me!

This very short video is a from a series, called Five Questions (Plus One), that Candlewick is doing with some of their authors and illustrators. They asked me five surprise questions (plus one), and I answered them! 

I think I like public speaking better than video speaking. But I also think the good people at Candlewick did their best to make me look at least presentable.