7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #238: Featuring Sophie Blackall
and a Handful of Illustrators and Designers
(I’ll Explain, Promise)

h1 September 25th, 2011 by jules

Happy Fall, one and all.

This morning, I’m featuring illustrations from two books meant for grown-ups, Sophie Blackall’s Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found (from which the second illustration above comes) and Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities (from which Austin designer Bryan Keplesky’s wonderful don’t-shave image above comes), edited by Ziggy Hanaor and with art from various illustrators and designers — but two books with exciting art, nonetheless. And exciting art, which talented illustrators and designers create, is what 7-Imp is all about, yes? I’d like to think so.

And can I just say that these two books are super-rad-neato-skeeto, to be erudite about it? They really are. I love them.

First up …

It’s been a very Sophie-Blackall year here at 7-Imp. Her name and/or art has appeared no less than seven times here at the blog in 2011. What can I say? I’m a fan (all the neater that I got to meet her in person in New York City in August). And I’m featuring more of her illustrations here today, because if I ruled the world, I’d decree that everyone see her new book, Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found, released this month. And that’s on account of it being fascinating and delightful and funny and even haunting, all at once.

Many of you probably already know about Sophie’s Missed Connections blog. Actually, let me back up: You know what a missed connection is, yes? This is when the eyes of two (or more) strangers meet across a room (or subway or laundromat or coffee shop or even, in one of the most heartbreaking Sophie-illustrated entries, aquarium), but contact information between interested parties is not exchanged. And then the moment is lost. Forever. (Or: “Untold people a day kick themselves,” Sophie writes in the book, “for not being bolder, braver, more spontaneous.”) But then you know what Missed Connections sites are, yes? Well, there are missed-connections sites every-dang-where, but it all began, I suppose, with Craigslist, where one could enter missed-connections information and try to find the person with whom he or she had momentarily connected.

For years now, Sophie has been illustrating Craigslist missed-connections entries at this blog of hers. (“Messages in bottles,” she writes at her blog, “smoke signals, letters written in the sand; the modern equivalents are the funny, sad, beautiful, hopeful, hopeless, poetic posts on Missed Connections websites. Every day hundreds of strangers reach out to other strangers on the strength of a glance, a smile or a blue hat. Their messages have the lifespan of a butterfly. I’m trying to pin a few of them down.”)

Now they’ve been compiled into a book from Workman Publishing, complete with a wonderful introduction from Sophie about what pulls her in the first place to illustrate these snapshots. “How on earth (you may ask) did I find myself in the position of love guru?” she writes, adding that she’s received twenty-seven emails this year alone from happy couples who united after having posted a Missed Connection. (“Some even sent photos,” she adds. “Six of them asked me to illustrate their wedding invitations. Several yearning types wrote, begging me to help them find their lost loves.”)

First, Sophie explains how illustrators set their own hours and how they get to spend most of the day on the Internet and call it “research. All this isolation can be good for productivity. It can also lead you to an atrophied palette, compulsive blogging, and thinking of Ira as your friend.” Here’s what else she wrote:

Once a week I make sure I leave my windowless cell in Brooklyn and go into Manhattan, either to see an editor or buy feathers, or to look at the stupendous armor at the Met or at tattoo catalogs on the Lower East Side. One day I squeezed into a subway car with a bushel of peacock feathers and a pound of sea scallops, and a handsome chap squeezed in next to me. We apologized in rounds, and when he stepped off he appeared in the window and mouthed two words. I turned to the girl next to me.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“Missed Connections,” she said.

I had no idea what she was talking about, but I didn’t want to seem uncool, so I made a mental note.

I got home, dropped my scallops and feathers, went to the computer, and looked up Missed Connections ….

Here is the first one I read:

You had a guitar, I had a blue hat
– m4w – 28
We exchanged glances and smiles on the subway platform. I pretended to read my New Yorker but I couldn’t concentrate. You got on the Q and I stayed on to wait for the B. You were lovely.

In the space of eight seconds, I had experienced love, loss, and regret. I held my breath and clicked on the next post.

And the next.

And the next.

It was dark long before I tore myself away….

And the rest is history, as they say. If you’ve followed her Missed Connections blog, you know how perfectly entertaining it it to see Sophie bring these short entries to life with humor and affection and whimsy and her ever-so-Sophie element of surprise and quirkiness. And now they’re all compiled into this book, which I can’t recommend highly enough. And Sophie is sharing some of the images today.

“We have only one life,” she writes further in the book’s introduction, “and we rush through it. We make choices and follow paths and we don’t linger too long at crossroads. Moments of intimacy with strangers are minor detours we rarely explore, but those moments make us feel alive, and human, and part of something greater than ourselves. Then connect us to each other.”

* * *

Next up is Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities (Cicada Books), edited by Ziggy Hanaor. As Ziggy likes to say, who better to take you around the USA than its artists?

I flippin’ love this book, which was designed by April. It is, as the subtitle tells you, an “alternative guide” to 25 U.S. cities, with entries written and illustrated by illustrators/designers who live in that city. This all means that you get lists of galleries, restaurants, bars, hotels, cinemas, thrift shops, boutiques, taverns, coffee shops, you-name-it that have what they deem “an alternative edge.” Each entry reflects the designer’s singular experience of that city, which means you see really fun things like (for the Milwaukee entry from Mike Krol): “Value Village — A thrift store across the street from The Domes….Mike scored a sweatshirt with a large deer head and three other shirts: one with a howling wolf head, one with a snow owl, and one with a duck. It’s just that kind of Wisconsin thrift store.” (Later, Mike notes that The Oriental is an old movie theater “where, on certain nights, a weird dude plays the pipe organ before your movie starts.”) Or (for designer Katie Hatz’s entry on Philadelphia), “You know when you’re in a bar and your friend gets up to use the bathroom/smoke a cigarette/talk to someone attractive, and you’re in a place so slick and stark that there’s nowhere to rest your eyes without staring awkwardly at the other patrons, so you pretend to play with your phone until your friend comes back? Here, you don’t have to do that, because there are photos of cute dogs all over the walls. Furthermore, the beet salad has big fried goat cheese balls in it.”

From Camillia BenBassat’s entry for New York City

In the editor’s note opening this book, which follows 2010’s Graphic Europe: An Alternative Guide to 31 European Cities, Ziggy notes:

The concept behind [this] is that people who work in the graphic arts, and who have an offbeat asthetic to their work will often seek out the unexpected and inspirational elements in their environments that one wouldn’t find in most travel guides. The recommendations in this book are the personal favorites of the individual contributors. They were not compiled by a team of trained researchers, and for the most part they do not include the bucket list of recommendations that most tourists feel they have to tick off. They tend to reflect the alternative, independent culture that is bubbling underneath the city, feeding into its public persona, but not immediately apparent to the visiting outsider. Not all the suggestions may be your cup of tea, but … [i]t’s kind of like a friend writing down their hot tips for each place.

{Pictured above is an image from Bryan Keplesky’s entry for Austin, Texas.}

The entries are funny and honest — some are surprising, and all are entertaining.

Image from Katie Hatz’s entry for Philadelphia
(Click to enlarge)

It’d be easy to dismiss this book in an oh-I’m-not-hip-or-“edgy”-enough fashion. One of my favorite quotes from Salinger’s Franny and Zooey comes to mind here. Franny says:

It’s everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so — I don’t know — not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and — sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you’re conforming just as much only in a different way.

But that isn’t this book. And it could have been. And that would have been tragic. What it is to me is a series of entries by beloved misfits (this is a compliment, coming from me), not to mention talented graphic designers. Artists, that is, who are gloriously left of center and who see the world in a different way.

Ah. Refreshing.

From Elizabeth Graeber’s entry for Baltimore, Maryland
(Click to see entire spread from which this image comes)

For a list of the cities covered in this book, you can visit this page. Most entries are divided into sections, such as “Stay,” “Eat,” “Drink,” “Do,” and “Music,” but you’ll also see sections like “Green Spaces,” “Expeditions,” and “Outdoors.”

Here’s some more art from the book. Enjoy.

From Michelle Weinberg’s entry for Miami, Florida
(Click to see entire spread from which this image comes)

From Bryan Keplesky’s entry for Austin, Texas:

Click to see entire spread from which this image comes

Click to see entire spread from which this image comes

Click to see entire spread from which this image comes

Click to see entire spread from which this image comes

Click to see entire spread from which this image comes

* * *

MISSED CONNECTIONS: LOVE, LOST & FOUND. Copyright © 2011 by Sophie Blackall. Published by Workman Publishing, New York. Images reproduced by permission of Sophie Blackall.

GRAPHIC USA: AN ALTERNATIVE GUIDE TO 25 U.S. CITIES. Copyright © 2011 Cicada Books Limited, London. Images reproduced by permission of editor, Ziggy Hanaor.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Speaking of misfits, as I did above, I went to a high school reunion of sorts last night, a small misfits reunion, if you will.

2) Misfits.

3) This cover of a song by Haley Bonar, called “Wendy Bird,” as performed by Daniel Martin Moore, is beautiful.

4) I’ve listened to that song only when I haven’t been listening to Laura Marling’s new CD, which I’m wearing. right. out. But I think I’ve already said that a billion times.

5) The premiere of the 37th season of Saturday Night Live last night. Once an SNL Nerd, always an SNL Nerd.

6) The cup of coffee I’m about to have.

7) I’ll be doing this on Tuesday of this week at Vanderbilt’s Peabody Library, if any local friends want to join me. (I didn’t make this flyer. I don’t normally walk around calling myself “blogger extraordinaire.”)

Note for interested folks in the Northeast: There is a new partnership between Massachusetts’ Pine Manor College’s Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program and The Foundation for Children’s Books. In the words of Kathy Gardner…

They will co-host the first in a series of biannual events, “What’s New in Children’s Books,” a half-day conference featuring authors, illustrators, and library and bookstore professionals on Saturday, November 5th at PMC.

It will feature illustrator Bryan Collier, winner of the Caldecott Honor Award and the 2011 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, middle-grade and teen novel writer Mark Peter Hughes, whose book Lemonade Mouth is now a Disney Channel movie; Penny Noyce, doctor, educator, mother of five, and author of Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers; and Terry Schmitz, owner of the Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, MA. The conference includes new books from the Children’s Book Shop, and book sales and signing.

I suppose anyone wanting more information can contact The Foundation for Children’s Books here.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

20 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #238: Featuring Sophie Blackall
and a Handful of Illustrators and Designers
(I’ll Explain, Promise)”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing about both of these books, Jules – they look fantastic and I have added them both to my b-day list. (I should note that list is becoming epically large but I just can’t stop myself.)

    I am buried under books needing to be reviewed (like NOW) so I’m not coherent enough to think of seven kicks. But I am delighted by how well KidLit Con went for everyone and so happy that it was a rousing success. And I’m also excited about the good things that will be revealed this week about my book. Mostly though, I’m just delighted that fall is here as it is my favorite time of year and already I am loving it.

  2. Oh, swoon! Love Sophie’s work and these two books are definitely on my wish list now :).
    Almost passed out when I saw the bear suit MC. ♥LOVE LOVE♥

    Have fun at your Fireside Chat, Miss Julie. You will definitely rock the house. 🙂

    A few kicks:

    1. This post full of Sophie goodness.

    2. Autumn, my favorite season!

    3. Won a copy of the BFG by Roald Dahl at Becky Levine’s blog.

    4. Connected with an old student on FB.

    5. Reading Chocolate Chocolate by Frances and Ginger Park, and hearing them speak at a Fall for the Book Festival event. (They write for kids and adults and own a chocolate boutique in DC.)

    6. The Park Sisters have agreed to a blog interview!

    7. Surprise book in the mail from a Hawaii friend.

    Have a good week, everyone. Time for cider and donuts :)!

  3. Nice post, Jules!

    My kicks:
    1. Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults is blooming and booming (as poet Allan Wolf would say):
    2. The p*tag ebook anthology of poems for teens is now available:
    3. Library of the Early Mind is due on DVD and digital download on December 1:
    4. Sunset turned plutonium over Mount Hope Bay
    5. Rabbits and frogs kangarooed over the road
    6. I wrote a defining essay:
    7. And I finish a small poem:

    After Rain, We Make Repairs
    By Steven Withrow

    Patch of dirt, dollop of mud

    A stitch of pitch-black gravel

    A gummy glop of pine sap

    Where the stick-ends unravel

    Dewy grass for scratchy bed

    Touch of dandelion head
    Twigs and littered strips of straw
    Nesting doves and morning thaw

  4. Wow! Thank you for sharing Sophies’ new books. I wonder if Portland, OR is in the city book. And the missed connections, what an idea.
    Jules, I wish I lived closer to attend the Fireside Chat.
    Colleen, I have heard so many good things about Kidlit Con.
    Jama, I love autumn too.
    My kicks:
    1. Book Club meets tonight to decide books.
    2. Oldest grangirl is reading. Had great fun with her last night.

    3. Cybils nominations open on Oct. 1.
    4. And CYBILS panels will be announced this week.
    5. Using my new MAC. Adjusting to it after not having one for years.
    6. Homemade bread by Chuck.
    7.Fresh garden tomatoes.
    Have a great week.

  5. Colleen, so glad to hear the conference went well (like Jone, I’ve only heard good things), and happy almost birthday, as well as book-release time! Very exciting.

    Jama, I cannot, for the life of me, find it in the book now, but I thought Sophie wrote that she heard from the bear-suit people. I’ll have to look that up again (or maybe I read it some place else?) … Fascinating book. I like to read these things for the same reason I like PostSecrets, but Sophie’s images make it way more fun. … Also, happy Autumn! And I look forward to your Park-sisters interview.

    Steven, I want to do a post about Poetry Advocates …. Still trying to get organized, but I wanna wanna wanna.

    Jone, yes, Portland is in the book! Congrats to your oldest granddaughter. I want Ada to start reading, too. She’s ready. She wants to. It will open up lots to her. … Good luck with that Mac, and have fun at the book club.

  6. This post makes me want to vow to never miss a connection, and to do what was suggested in one of Sophie’s posts: connect with six strangers a day!


    Last Wednesday was my birthday and it was great. :o) I finished reading Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, went shopping, had dinner with my two younger brothers, got a bunch of gifts . . . And my students threw me a surprise party!

    I think it’s significant that I finished reading Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on my birthday because the characters in the novel had everything but didn’t know they had everything until they lost everything. I cried after I finished reading the novel and I realized that I had everything. But then my students threw me a surprise party and I realized that I had MORE than everything!

  7. What beautiful work! Kudos, Sophie, and thanks, Jules, for sharing her work here once again. I really like that excerpt you posted from the introduction – and I may use it for Poetry Friday later this week.

    Missed connections. Yes indeed.

    Jules: Wishing you a wonderful Tuesday event! Have fun. Thanks also for the quote from F&Z. Last Monday, the day after I listened to Laura Marling for the first time here at this very blog, an acquaintance spoke highly of her, and we listened to her some more. Also, I was discussing Peter Pan & J.M. Barrie with someone just yesterday, and now you’ve recommended Wendy Bird. I was not familiar with that song. It sounds lovely. Wow. My hair was being braided when we were talking about J.M. Barrie. Are you over my shoulder, Jules? This is quite amusing to me, you must realize. I typically influence others in this fashion. (To say something, and then have it happen, or to read minds – I kind of scare people when I do that, but it’s a natural, regular happening for me, so no longer surprises me when it happens.)

    Everyone: It sounds like KidLit Con was a success. That makes me so happy for all of the planners, presenters, and attendees. Congrats.

    Jama: Sounds like the Chocolate Chocolate event was fun fun.

    Steven: Boom boom to the poetry boom! Hello to the bunnies and frogs. I hope that the frogs were able to cross the road without any need for an arcade game…

    Jone: Have fun at your book club! Enjoy the books, the discussions, the Cybils, and the foodstuffs.

    Tarie: Happy belated birthday to you! I hope you had a splendid celebration, as all September babies deserve. It sounds as if you did.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Listening
    2) Seeing (without needing to be seen)
    3) Images
    4) Home
    5) Autumn
    6) Comfort
    7) Vocalization (and yet…)

  8. I found Haley’s performance of Wendy Bird: http://www.mnoriginal.org/art/?p=4101

  9. Hi, I’m just popping in to say hello to everyone. My big kick was going to a swing dance party last night. Much fun! To be continued, Farida

  10. Wow, lovely illustrations today. I will return after work. And more music too from our blogger extraordinaire!

    As usual, kitlitcon sounds like it was great. You should all come to Australia for one sometime!

    1. We had a long weekend at Fraser Island (big sand island up the coast) last weekend with friends. They have a four wheel drive ute (ah ha, I realised this is Australian in time! This is a pick up truck I think) and invited us to go along. Fraser is a world heritage site and completely gorgeous. We had a great time.
    2. Gorgeous hot weather
    3. And koels, the stormbirds, have arrived in our area, which means winter is really over
    4. Bought a beautiful little Japanese teapot with birthday money (from July – I don’t go shopping much!)
    5. Although seeing a flying fox (large fruit bat) flying around is comon, I got to see one very close up the other night when he hung off a palm frond to eat nectar from a flowering tree outside our window. A very cute face.
    6. Lunch by the bay
    7. A beautiful wok as a present

    (sorry I haven’t time for links, I have to run off in a couple of minutes)

  11. Tarie, happy birthday again. So glad your lucky students threw you a big ‘ol party.

    Little Willow, “and yet…..”? Mysterious! So glad you listened to Laura Marling some more. She is obscenely talented. Glad you like “Wendy Bird,” too, and thanks for the link. I think I’d seen that before but forgot I had. You can also hear her sing it (as it appears on the CD) at her web site. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE the piano in the Daniel Martin Moore cover.

    Farida, swing dancing WOOT WOOT!

    Emmaco, I learned ute today, as well as koels. So wild to have readers from all over the world and read about your winter being over, when our Fall has just arrived. Enjoy lots of tea in your new teapot.

  12. Oh my, what a delight for the eyes on a Monday morning! Sophie’s work is inspiring. I’m off to follow Colleen’s lead and put in a birthday request for her beautiful, beautiful book. x

  13. Hi Jess! It is great stuff, isn’t it? I’m so glad Sophie makes art.

  14. Farida: Three cheers for swing dancing! 🙂

    emmaco: Please say hello to any and all flying foxes you see! They are so cute.

    Jules: And yet, yes. It makes sense to me. I listened to the album version of Sophia and then watched the official video. Twice. Then I listened to Wendy Bird (DMM cover) a few more times.

  15. LW: I’ve been humming “Wendy Bird” all weekend and all today. Lovely melody.

  16. I think I have said over and over I am a big fan of Sophie’s, and now even more. Wow for the Missed Connections and must get a copy for my daughter.

    My kicks:

    1. Packing for my trip back home after 4 1/2 months in Scotland.

    2. Three poems taken for a literary journal.

    3. Car exhaust broken, now fixed. All in one day.

    4. My new garden room is a delight and I could listen to the blue tits chirruping all day long.

    5. Scotland is having a last blast of summer, the only bit of summer I’ve experienced this year. I got here end of May and as a friend explained, “You missed summer, it was last month.” Say it in a wry tone and Glasgow accent as she did, and you have the Ur Caledonian experience.


  17. I have got to read both these books.

  18. Jane, congrats on the poems! Enjoy that last gasp of summer.

    Adrienne, I think you’ll like them both, particularly the travel guide.

  19. Quoting Sophie/MC intro for Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

  20. […] and online for hours, looking at different illustrators. Finally, I came across Sophie’s book Missed Connections with its remarkable images. I went to the bookstore the next day to buy it, and when I read the […]

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