My friend Teresa has this notebook. She got it from Elliot Bay Book Company in case you want one just like it. I found myself amused by the name, "Decomposition Book," and not just because it was 100% recycled, but because it made me think about decomposition. 

I am fascinated by decomposition. The first day I was at my father's house to begin the arduous task of packing his things, my husband and I wandered into the woods on his property, and found this completely decomposed deer just off his driveway. The poor thing must have been hit by a car and this is where it rejoined the elements, becoming one with the forest in body, if not in spirit. It left behind a boneprint. I supposed you could call it a skeleton, but I see it as so much more than that. I see it as art, structure and story.

Once upon a time, when I first got published, my editor at Chronicle Books, Victoria Rock told me that the basic structure of a picture book was: the words are the bones and the pictures are the flesh.

I completely agree. The bones are the story. They have to be strong and complete. You can't hang pretty pictures on a bad skeleton and create a good book. Once that structure is good and sound, then you can give them the right skin- to make that story appealing; to add to its' solid structure with layers of texture and nuance. But make sure the leg bone is connected to the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone, etc... otherwise that story won't be moving forward.

That deer was a story, and perhaps can still tell a story with the help of a ghost writer, but for now it is a forensic mystery. Maybe someday it will be a fossil relic. That's decomposition for you. As time goes by, if you did your homework and left your imprint in the right elements- perhaps some silica or Egyptian sand, your particular story may live on forever. Or at least the book won't go out of print.

There is another thing that I like about decomposition: it feeds other flora and fauna. I found this moss-covered decomposing log that was a necropolis-terrarium to a fabulous flora/fungi outcropping of oyster mushrooms. I was the fauna (along with my husband and sisters-in-law) who feasted on those beauties on top of fresh grilled Alaskan troll caught king salmon.

The mushrooms are symbolic to me. They symbolize how one situation, for example: the decay and decomposition I witnessed at my father's house, can grow things- say: ideas for stories- anew. So maybe it's not really "ashes to ashes" and "dust to dust." Maybe it's "mildew to memories," and "trash to treasure." You just have to stir things up, look under rocks, and be patient. Sometimes things have to process. Those oyster mushroom spores lay dormant for a year. They were there, however, all along, waiting for the perfect temperature and the right rains until they fruited. The key was that we found them just at the optimum moment. 

And that said, you need to make sure you have your Decomposition Book handy at all times. 

I hope your ideas and stories will be cropping up like mushrooms after the rain.

With Love,


  1. My very train of thoughts today. We must be on parallel shifting paths. I love your writing, Nina - this is beautiful and thoughtful. Thank you for sharing your eloquence and insides, ok, yes and insights.

  2. Ha ha, Wendy! My insides. I love it. Yes, we are on parallel paths. Catwalks, perhaps? See you soon, sweetie.

  3. The metaphor of the bones being the story and the flesh being the pictures is so helpful. Thanks, Nina!


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