Testing my new toy

Ever since I met plein air painters in the boatyard, a couple of years ago, I’ve wanted to try my hand at it. (See “Beauty and Goodness Are In the Air,” which was published on mepsnbarry.com in Feb. 2014)

Three weeks ago, my father got me a French box easel for my birthday. Now I can go out and do plein air painting, which seems like a great way to get fresh air and mosquito bites, as well as talk to curious strangers. Today, I did a test painting on the back porch, and as you can see from the results, Frank Lloyd Bear joined in the fun!

Painting

Painting of Dad’s lake with Frank Lloyd Bear meditating

French box easel

The French box easel on the back porch. Its design incorporates some seriously complicated 19th-century engineering.

Doing the Christmas wave

This Christmas was a very busy time for me — hosting visitors, wrapping gifts, cooking homemade food, and preparing for the Strangers Have the Best Candy Florida Keys book tour. I was running nonstop, somewhere between frantic and frenetic.

Finally, on Christmas morning, after I dropped my father and brother at the Catholic church, I had a rare treat: 15 whole minutes to myself.

I drove to Riverside Park in Vero Beach, where I thought I might walk along the river or just sit and look at the water. That all changed when I drove into the park and saw two young women in shorts holding cardboard signs. From a distance, they looked like hitchhikers at Burning Man! But up close, I could read the signs, which said “Free Christmas Breakfast.”

I rolled down my window. “Who’s sponsoring the breakfast?” I asked. They told me that it was a group from King’s Baptist Church, and they pointed up the road to a picnic shelter where they would be serving until 10:30. I glanced at the clock on my dashboard. It was 10:25.

All I hoped for was a good cup of coffee, but the friendly young group had much more than that. They had a huge grill and enough pancakes and eggs and pastries and orange juice for all of Vero Beach. They had excellent coffee.

They sat me down and treated me as an honored guest, and we talked about my favorite subject, talking to strangers. The conversation flowed along to a fun related topic, waving at strangers. On this sunny Christmas morning beside the river, no one was in a hurry to leave at 10:30, and I stayed past my planned 15 minutes.

I don’t remember all seven of their names, but thanks to this photo, I do remember their joyful faces. Here is how we celebrate Christmas in Florida: Out in the sunshine, smiling and waving at all of you.

7 new friends waving

Waving for the camera on Christmas morning

Florida Keys Book Tour

Here I go! Tomorrow morning, I leave for the Keys, via Miami!

The drive of six hours is a breeze,
Then I’ll be in the wonderful Keys,
Where I’ll whip out my pen,
Signing books once again,
For the readers who say “pretty-please.”

Here are the dates of this week’s appearances:

  • December 29, 5 pm: Key West Island Books
  • December 30, 3 pm: Key West Library
  • December 31, 11 am: Hooked on Books, Islamorada

Key West book tour poster

Don’t fear this stranger’s candy

Now that I’m back in Vero Beach, Florida for the winter, I’m reading the Indian River Press-Journal again. Earlier this year, Larry Reisman wrote an article about me, and they ran it right on the front page (admittedly, it was below the fold). It’s a fun read — so in case you missed it, here’s the link:
Laurence Reisman: Don’t fear this stranger’s candy (from tcpalm.com)

I love the photo he published with me and Philip’s “Strangers Have the Best Candy” t-shirt.

Meps with Strangers Have the Best Candy shirt (photo by Laurence Reisman)

Illustrating The Joyful Bear

I’ve rented an office and art studio in Vero Beach, Florida, and I’m making progress on the illustrations for The Joyful Bear. Surprisingly, I’m having to work from photographs.

“It’s not that I can’t sit still for my portrait,” Frankie says, “but I don’t want that messy charcoal stuff on my fur.”

Frankie the Bear

Hugs! From the Joyful Bear.

KCBS and Talking to Strangers

Friday, July 31 is “National Talk in an Elevator Day.” For Margaret Meps Schulte, that means “San Francisco Talk on the Radio Day!”

Tune into KCBS (740 AM/106.9 FM) at 9:30 AM PST to hear Meps’ interview with morning anchors Stan Bunger and Susan Leigh Taylor about the benefits of talking to strangers. If you’re not in the Bay Area, no problem — it’s just as easy to listen on the internet.

Meps has even penned a limerick in honor of the occasion:

When you get on the dull workday lift,
Where you always give strangers short shrift,
Just this once, say hello,
And then see how things go,
It’s the day to give strangers that gift.

elevator3up-d90-1085

The Autographed E-Book

For readers who must save a tree,
There’s now an e-Book, and it’s free,
It’s a little bit newer,
And the drawings are fewer,
But you’ll find that it still sounds like me.

The Kindle Edition of Strangers Have the Best Candy is now available! The download is free today, June 28. Since I cannot autograph your Kindle without damaging it, I’m offering an autographed Happy Spot to anyone who downloads the eBook before July 10! Put your request in a comment on this post, and I’ll contact you for the mailing address.

If you have a different type of e-reader, the ePub edition will be available on Smashwords on July 1. If you have a choice, get the Amazon Kindle Edition — it has more illustrations!

Although this edition doesn’t have the full quota of illustrations, the best ones are included. Frank Lloyd Bear and I have also included a teaser for our next book, The Joyful Bear.

Meps-Sig-Plus-candy