PenguinArt by Kate Garchinsky

Tag: writing

Kate on Facebook

Or, at least, this is why I’m trying. 

For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from a habit of worrying obsessively about what other people think of me. Preoccupied with the opinions and emotions of others, I sacrificed my own feelings for the good of keeping peace, taking care of others, making sure that everyone around me was happy. I had come to the conclusion that I did not deserve happiness until everyone I knew or knew of was first genuinely happy. I won’t blame all the Catholic schooling because, you know, that would be cause for more shame.

The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. —Virginia Woolf

Babies and toddlers cannot lie about their emotions. Adults can and do. I learned to read conflicting body language, words and emotions, and became very good at it, or so I thought, at an early age. At the same time, I developed a less useful sense of paranoia about all people and their feelings. The only beings who could be trusted to express themselves authentically were not human. Animals, birds, maybe babies—they were ok. Everyone else was suspect.

Oh gosh, so what the heck does all of this have to do with Facebook? (See? I’m worried about what you’re thinking and feeling right now. You’re bored, aren’t you? You’re thinking I’m a self-absorbed narcissist. Ok, so you don’t like me. Fine. I am pretending to accept that.)

The problem with Facebook is that, for someone like me, who is already preternaturally preoccupied with other people’s emotions, feeling obligated to make sure everyone is ok and liking me in order to feel at ease with myself, Facebook is a dangerous drug.

Facebook: the App of Codependency

It’s true, see? I trademarked it. All trademarked things on the internet are true.

A psychologist friend of mine once shared a theory with me, that all people everywhere have the potential to become addicted to something. Her thought is that whether or not a person ever engages in addictive behavior depends upon whether or not they find their drug. Some people have multiple, readily accessible and findable drug matches. Others luck out with an obscure drug they never find at the serendipitous low point in their life.

Many people will overuse Facebook, maybe even become dependent upon it, but not everyone will become a Facebook addict. It was not a problem for me from day one. For six years I was an active to heavy user, but I retained some self-control. Then things changed. In order to meet an extreme deadline last year, I almost completely isolated myself from the outside world. Brian, now my fiancé, provided life support—food, wine, dog walking, and long hugs. Other than that, I was socially deprived, and to compensate, I got in the habit of checking email and Facebook before I got out of bed. Snooze iPhone alarm, read Mail, open Facebook, binge, binge, binge! Until I absolutely had to get out of bed. Get up, brush teeth, sit down to work until a dinner plate sat in front of me. Eat, work til 2, sometimes 5am. My mind and body suffered until I got the job done, and kept suffering.

Nearly a year after the start of that project, the pain is constant. I cannot sit at my drafting table or my easel for more than an hour without triggering level 8-10 pain, accompanied by muscle spasms and emotional duress. To be fair, I already had been diagnosed with a condition called cervical spinal stenosis going into last year. It caused me some pain and some numbness in my right shoulder, arm and hand during periods of heavy use, but I had found ways to manage it with acupuncture, exercise, a TENS unit, and anti-inflammatories. These no longer provide relief. I’ve been without insurance for over a year, so my medical resources have been limited for some time. On May 1st I’ll be added to Brian’s insurance. My appointment at the Rothman Institute is May 6th. It has been a long wait.

During that wait, I reached my breakthrough point, found my rock bottom. Not being able to create a drawing, a painting or a design without pain is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. The thought of this being a permanent problem is nearly unbearable.

Creation is my oldest, truest friend. Like animals, it is safe. Without it, who am I? I have always been “Katie, the artist.” From the time I was reading feelings, I was hiding up in my room with my box of art supplies, painting birds in trees. Back then art was pure escape. These days art also represents my independence, my livelihood, my identity, my true feelings, my self.

Back to fricking Facebook. I have come to recognize how much of my creative energy Facebook zaps. I throw hours and hours of meaningless attention to it every morning. And then again 5 minutes later. And then there’s a notification. And oh, who’s birthday is it? I wouldn’t want them to think I didn’t care. And oh, just the News Feed for a few minutes so I don’t feel so alone, just give me a fix of connection with someone, somewhere. Ugh. Not that girl. I didn’t even like her in grade school. Why are we “friends” now? Oh! A video! Yes I do need to know the top 12 reasons I should be doing something that someone else says on someone else’s page that came from a website that generates top # lists just so people share them like this until everyone has seen it and maybe 1/10 of those sharers clicked on an ad on that page accidentally, and so they’re making money, and OH MY GOD IT IS 4:47PM AND I HAVEN’T ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING TODAY, AND I NEED TO START WRITING, BECAUSE WRITING IS ONE CREATIVE THING I STILL CAN DO WITHOUT HURTING.

In order to start my new career as a writer, I need to stop Facebooking. Hey, if you read this far, I might even have a chance. All I know is, if I spend the same amount of time writing Real things every day that I spend crafting status updates, uploading photos and leaving comments, I’ll get something creative done and be much healthier for it.

*In order to determine how long I had been Facebooking, I had to find the “Joined Facebook” life event on my profile. In the process of searching for it, I was distracted by 6 news stories, 1 video, and 3 notifications—equalling 20 minutes of more wasted time. I can justify it to myself by saying it was a bird video so that’s really research for my next book. Not.
You cannot find peace by avoiding life. —Virginia Woolf

Kate Garchinsky is an artist who draws and writes books about birds. Please do not Like her Facebook page. Instead, follow her blog at

Tag: writing

Kate Garchinsky - Nutcracker

Illustration by Kate Garchinsky,

SAN FRANCISCO, CA Monday, December 2, 2013–San Francisco Ballet, the country’s oldest professional company and the first to perform the full-length Nutcracker in America, today announced the launch of a Nutcracker interactive storybook application. Designed for children ages 6-10 and their families, the animated iPad app allows users to not only experience SF Ballet’s production of Nutcracker through original illustrations and storytelling, but to explore and engage with the world of classical dance and music through groundbreaking new interactive technology.

Key features of the app, now available on the App Store for $4.99, include original artwork by Kate Garchinsky; audio clips of Tchaikovsky’s renowned Nutcracker score that accompany each scene; as well as playful animations, and pop-up information pages featuring fun facts about ballet,Nutcracker, and SF Ballet’s production. In addition, the app offers videos and photos that take young readers behind the scenes. Users have the option of reading the story themselves or listening to a narration while they tilt and tap their iPad to uncover surprises along the way.

In addition, the app includes an in-depth, informative microsite, “Discover SF Ballet,” which can be accessed through the “Discover” button on the app homepage, as well as throughout the storybook and online by clicking here. The microsite features a host of photos and videos, interactive movement tutorials, background information on SF Ballet and its School, a history of ballet and dance, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the Company, including its production of Nutcracker. Throughout this playful and educational app, children can hone their reading skills, while learning about ballet, dance, music, and more.

“As the company who started this beloved holiday tradition in America in 1944, we are thrilled to share our appreciation of Nutcracker, dance, and music with the widest possible audience through this unique app,” said SF Ballet Education Director Charles Chip McNeal. “Through the app’s fun and interactive content, our goal is to offer a rich educational experience for children and their families alike.”

To see the Nutcracker Interactive Storybook app trailer visit:

To Download
SF Ballet’s Nutcracker Interactive Storybook app is available for download on the App Store for $4.99. To access the app, click here.  This app is optimized for iOS6 or later and is optimized for iPad. A version for Android tablets will be released at a later date.

For reviewing media members only: contact Kyra Jablonsky or Lauren White for to access a free download of the app.

Nutcracker Interactive Storybook:
Illustrations and story by Kate Garchinsky
Narration by Eileen Brady
Design and development by Night Kitchen Interactive in collaboration with the artists, musicians, students, and staff of San Francisco Ballet.

The Nutcracker Interactive Storybook was made possible by a grant from the James F. Irvine Foundation’s Arts Innovation Fund.

San Francisco Ballet
United States, San Francisco Ballet, under the direction of Helgi Tomasson, presents more than 100 performances annually, both locally and internationally. For more information, visit For more information about SF Ballet’s Nutcracker, visit

Kate Garchinsky
Philadelphia, Award-winning illustrator and author, Kate Garchinsky,  is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. For more information about her and to view her work, visit

– See more at:

Tag: writing

exhaustion [ɪgˈzɔːstʃən] n

1. extreme tiredness; fatigue
2. the condition of being used up; consumption exhaustion of the earth’s resources
3. the act of exhausting or the state of being exhausted

I love this spot. Taken by Scott McBride.

Exhaustion isn’t always necessarily bad. There’s post-exercise exhaustion. Post {bleep} exhaustion. Post-party exhaustion. Today it’s post-SCBWI-NYC-Mid-Winter Conference exhaustion. Who else is with me?

For the past three days I sat in a crowded room and absorbed a highly charged current of creativity in the electro-magnetic New York City.

I <3 NY.

Snow dustedness outside the Grand Hyatt

The mere scale of this weekend’s conference could easily terrify and exhaust any introvert. There had to be at least 1,000 people in the main ballroom. At least. All exchanging creative energy, enthusiasm, frustrations and exhaustions through conversation, presentation, body language, laughter and sighs.

*cue long sip of Rioja*

Door prize time!

I cannot possibly share it all right now. I’m not even sure it’s possible to share it all. The mere thought exhausts me. So… how about a few highlights? After that, I’m going to search for last night’s episode of SNL because Scott and I could not hear the TV audio from our two corner stools at Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern last night. El DeBarge had stolen all the rowdy room’s ears via jukebox.


Weekend highlights (kind of in order of occurence):

Making it to NYC just in time to drop off my art. Catching up with John. John Carlin and Rubin Pfeffer’s eBook session. Conversing briefly with a Mentee without realizing who he was. Fantastic Italian dinner in NoHo. Picking up my Showcase art and seeing all 20 large postcards had been snatched. Good dark ale at McSorely’s with Scott and a table full of strangers-turned-pals from NYU law school.

Whew. Hilarious and humble luncheon keynote by the gazillion-copy-selling author of Goosebumps, R.L. Stine. Meeting an eBook entrepreneur. Book signing party minglings. Chatting with Marilyn. Snowflakes that stayed on my nose and my lashes. Perfect vegetable dumplings at Samurai Mama. Watching Eye of the Tiger through the glass wall at the bar at the Knitting Factory. Making super secret plans with Scott at Rosemary’s.

R.L. Stine receives thanks post-keynote

Sara Zarr’s keynote. Sitting next to Olivia and Nadine Bouler, sharing a bird joke before I realized who Olivia was. *Birdartiststarstruckness* Following the owls and the penguins. The humor panel including Mo Willems. Making last-minute connections with people in line at the autograph party. Talking to Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple about birding, owling. Birding and writing. More wandering around Brooklyn. Experiencing the moment. Feeling right.

The owls are everywhere, and they are very wise.

Ok. That’s all I’ve got. When I get home I’ll scan some of my notes. They’re littered with character sketches. Girls in animal masks. Penguins doing yoga. Well, trying their best. It’s not easy with those stumpy little legs.


Penguins are also wise. They love beagles, just like me.