Poetry Monday: “A Little Newt” + Interview with Dana Carey

A Little Newt

A few years ago when my husband and I were road tripping across the U.S., we stopped into a dubious oceanfront motel somewhere in Florida. Cranky from the humidity (I wilt!), I just wanted to take a cold shower and go to sleep. But before I even set down my luggage, I noticed my husband looking at me with an odd expression.

Lizard on Crocs
Lizard on Crocs ~ by Renee

“Something isn’t right with this bed,” he said. “I just feel it.”

“Looks okay to me,” I said. Then I whipped back the covers to reveal…a lizard! In the bed! Propped up on his pigeon-toed front legs and staring at us in all his scaly glory, as if to say, “Oh, excuse me, I thought checkout was at 11.”

Of course I marched to reception all aquiver and explained the situation. But the nonplussed receptionist merely asked, “Oh, is it a house lizard?”

What’s a house lizard? I silently shrieked.

Turns out that little lizard was nothing compared to the gigantic iguanas we had to dodge a couple years later as we scootered around St. Thomas and picked our way through the iguana minefield on the beach, where they all went for their noontime naps. I was always sure I’d landed in the middle of an episode of LOST, what with all that disconcerting rustling in the bushes.

But after ten years of living in Italy, I’ve come to really love the little green fellows who live in the garden and scamper through the woods and on the beach. And if I happen to find one stuck to the kitchen wall, well, I simply shoo it gently out the door, no shrieking at all.

In fact, I love them so much that I asked artist and fellow 12×12 participant Dana Carey to immortalize a particular little amphibian in a painting and submit to one of my interviews — and she happily obliged! So please welcome both Dana and “A Little Newt,” who lives in the book Lizard Lou

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A Little Newt

If you find a little newt
snacking on a garden root,
sweetly offer him a fruit…
or he’ll think you have bad manners.

If you find a little newt
hiding in your laundry chute,
kindly dress him in a suit…
or he’ll think you have bad manners.

If you find a little newt
sitting on your silver flute,
show him how to make it toot…
or he’ll think you have bad manners.

If you find a little newt
trembling underneath your boot,
gently ask him Please do scoot
or he’ll think you have bad manners.

If you find a little newt
grinning, small, and mostly mute,
tell him that he’s terribly cute!
And he’ll thank you for your manners.

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A dandy newt am I ~ by Dana Carey
A dandy newt am I ~ by Dana Carey


Now look at this newt! I have named him Giorgio after an artsy man in my town who haunts the cafés in his scarf and beret and dangling cigarette, holding court and doing his best to play the role of dissipated director. I bet he wears polka-dotted boxers, too!

[heading style=”1″]Featured Artist Snickerview™ ~ Dana Carey[/heading]

A dandy newt am I, am I!

Newt in Suit by Dana Carey
Newt in Suit ~ by Dana Carey

What’s Up with Dana

Dana Carey

Dana, who are you, where are you, and how long have you been painting laundry?
This is the first time I’ve painted a pile of laundry, but I did sketch some when I was in college. Piles of dirty laundry were in abundance in the dorms, and I had a sketchbook to fill for homework. Painting this laundry was much more fun because I got to make up the clothes and I didn’t have to wash them when I was done.

I’m an American living in France. I was a graphic designer and art director in New York and then Paris, and later I taught English in Versailles (Architecture School) and Paris (Art School). As I look back, I realize I’ve always worked with images and words in one way or another. Drawing has been a constant in my life, but painting came later. As a kid, I couldn’t wait until I had my very own paints and could paint whenever I wanted.

How did you create Giorgio the Newt and how long did it take?
I read your poem, let it sink into my brain, then sketched. I started out sketching the newt on a flute. I made two paintings in acrylic, but two things bothered me: the newt was fairly realistic and the composition had too much negative space — this would have been okay for a page layout, but for your website, I wanted something else. The newt needed more whimsy to reflect the tone of your poem. So I went with the newt in a suit and switched to gouache. This took me about three days, more or less.

When and how did you discover that this particular newt prefers boxers to briefs? Please remember that this is a children’s blog.
Ha! You know, I never considered briefs for this newt — he likes color and design and lots of it, so briefs would have been, well, too brief!

Do you draw other stuff, or are you partial to creatures that can stick to walls? And do you have a favorite medium (for your illustrations, I mean, not to tell your future)?
I do draw and paint other stuff. As a matter of fact, this newt might be my first reptile — but it won’t be my last! I’ll paint most anything — people, places, things. I went through a period where I painted scenes from airports (a series that showed in New York and Quimperlé), and I’m in a tree phase at the moment. Other than that, I’m sketching mice for a children’s book dummy and two idiosyncratic brothers for another project. My favorite medium is oils, but gouache is a close second and I use it more because it’s very practical. I’ve been drawing with black fineline markers too. I’ll try anything!

How do you fritter away your time when you’re not clothing small amphibians in clashing patterns?
Good question! I often wonder what the heck I’ve been doing all day. Sometimes I get translations to do (French to English). Sometimes I get middle grade/young adult novels to read, and then I write reports about them in French for a publisher here. I’m hoping to find a teaching position in this town I moved to in September, so it would help if I sent out my CV!

I’m also the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI France, so planning, organizing, and registering people for events does take time. It’s fun and I love it. The best part is the events — meeting people and learning about children’s publishing.

Aha! And I think you write stories, too, right? So you could write your own lizard tale! 
I do write picture books too! I’m working on dummy books and character studies for my stories. In fact, I’ve been writing more lately, which is why doing this newt for you has been great. It got me back to the drawing board. Striking a balance between writing and illustrating is important, but not always easy.

Can we come visit you and see other neat stuff you’ve done? (No, not at your house, don’t worry! Although, if we disguise ourselves as Giorgio, we could just suction-cup our way around your property and you probably wouldn’t even notice.)
You can visit me at my blog, Up in the Attic Lately. I have artwork and sketches there and plan to add more. My website, errr… that’s been on my mind for awhile and I’m hoping 2012’s the year for it. Otherwise, check out @danaFR on Twitter. I’m on Facebook too!

What would you do if you found a well-dressed newt in your teacup?
I’d shriek, for sure. I startle easily! But I’d welcome him or her into my studio. Both writing and illustrating can be isolating, so I think it would be fun to have some company — and fashion-forward newts don’t take up a lot of space!

Thanks for stopping by, Dana, and for creating the splendiferous Giorgio the Newt!
Thanks for inviting me, Renée. This has been a blast. I love your website and I’m so honored to be here!

I newt you’d be a great guest, I just newt it!

[heading style=”1″]Amphibian and Reptile Activities[/heading]


Video Location: Cobwebby picnic table surrounded by heavy underbrush with lots of lizard rustling going on. Sterpaia Park, Italy.

See more poems in my poetry video library. 
“A Little Newt” by Renée LaTulippe. Licensed by All About Learning Press, Inc. Copyright © 2010, 2012 All About Learning Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  No portion of this material may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated, or otherwise used without the express written approval of All About Learning Press, Inc.

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  1. Lots of humour, whim and colour as usual here. I loved watching lizards scampering across the patio or sunning themselves on the outside walls. Yay for a fellow France-SCBWIer. I loved Dana’s Newt in Suit and reading more about her. Great amphibian activities and I wish Dana good luck in getting that job (and getting that CV out!)

    Grazie et merci ragazze!

  2. How frightful that you shrieked and shivered
    Confronted by that hapless lizard.
    Inspired by that wee amphibian,
    Your poem has charmed us once again – ian!

    Lovely to see some wildlife, to meet Dana, and enjoy a Monday morning poetry romp. I’d have shrieked too – make no mistake!

    And not to get too political (’tis election season here in the US) but how could Mr. and Mrs. Gingrich gaze at a tiny newborn baby and think “Hmm… Newt would be the perfect name!”

  3. Loved it! Really fun and interesting interview. I have a lizard named Lizzy that hangs out behind my house. She hasn’t shown her face yet this year, but Spring is coming, so I hope Lizzy will be, too. Then…Denace lives in my mailbox. He is a small gecko type guy. He got his name because I get startled when I open the mailbox and he scampers around in there…since I have almost fallen on my backside a couple of times, I decided that although he is cute, he could be a menace….Thus Denace the Menace. He has not shown up yet either, but hopefully he will spend another summer with us. Even though he is a menace I am fond of him.
    So, besides being totally entertaining, your poem and Dana’s drawing filled a void as I am missing my little newt-like creatures.

    1. HA! I love the mailbox lizard! I want one. They are cute, but yes, still startling when you hear a sudden rustle and swish of movement where you don’t expect it. My in-laws have a gecko that lives behind a birdhouse on the veranda wall — he comes out when we eat out there. Love his feet!

  4. How wonderful for the 2 of you to get together like this for a rhyme with illustration. Lizards are beautiful and fun to watch. Some of them seem just as colorful as Georgio in their natural clothes. 🙂

  5. Beautiful painting and fun poem. I got to learn what gouache is (I know nothing about art). I actually once found a lizard (i think it was a salamander) crawling around the laundry room and hiding under the piles of clothes. I owned two fire-belly newts when I was growing up. They were adorable.

  6. Renee – I almost tweeted you last night to find out if their was going to be a Poetry Monday today. I decided against it, because I am often frantically working right up to midnight the night before an author’s birthday. I didn’t want to add unnecessary stress to your life! So, glad you are feeling better too!

    I love Giorgio, the poem, and the painting by Dana! So cool that you filmed the little lizard at the end of the video.

    Thanks again for a great post! Love them!

  7. I’m having such fun reading all of these posts! What a fun interview, Renee! You and Dana seemed to really be enjoying yourselves. I love your reading style and that poem, well ADORABLE! Dana your work is WONDERFUL!! To be able to hear words and extract such a character, bravo! Great job, ladies!

  8. I loved that a lizard stopped by to be filmed. What impeccable timing. 🙂 Such a lovely touch to the end of today’s video. Perfect!

    Dana–Your painting is lovely– a vibrant, whimsical and fitting interpretation of Renee’s poem. I just love it! 🙂

  9. Oh what a fun post! Another poem and I love when you pulled back the covers and the lizard seemed to say” Oh excuse me I thought checkout was at 11″ That got the giggles going. Dana, your newt in a suit is so dapper and cute. I love him! Great interview!

  10. Loved the poem, illustrations & the backstory. Brought to mind the scorpion I found next to my pillow while staying on Guana Island (north east of St. Thomas). The staff there was similarly non-plussed, but I did learn to check my shoes from then on…

  11. Oh my goodness, Giorgio! We had our share of lizard house guests when we lived in Sicily, but none of them were as cute as your Giorgio. (And I certainly wouldn’t have welcomed one into my bed in the middle of the morning. That hotel room! I would’ve shrieked!)

    I loved your painting, Dana! And your poem, Renee! Great interview!

  12. Loved your poem, your hotel story and Dana’s interview and paitings. Must admit is has taken me a while to get used to lizards. Do okay in Florida, but in Brazil I lived with them in my room, huge 2-ft one in my bathroom and the babies loved my dirty clothing bag. Learned that being at a retreat in the middle of no where, I was going to have befriend them because I was stuck for several weeks. Guess it was all about becoming comfortable with myself.

    Great post today! It gave made a good chuckle.

    1. Thanks so much, Erik!
      Gouache is a water-based paint. It’s a lot like watercolor but it’s thicker–opaque (not as transparent as watercolors). It’s available in liquid and in dry cakes. I use gouache from little tubes called LINEL, a very old brand here in France. I also use the dry cakes, especially outside as it’s easy to transport. There’s a picture of them on my blog: http://danacarey.blogspot.com/2010/06/stand-up-and-get-to-work.html

      Well, Erik, hope that helps! 🙂

  13. What a fun poem, Renee! When we lived in Arizona, we had lots of lizards that scrambled across our backyard wall or garage. One time my husband caught one in a jar to show my daughter!
    And what a nice interview, Dana! Sounds like an interesting life you have in France!

  14. The two of you have changed the old adage “no newts is good newts” forever — Georgio newts are good newts all the time!

    I enjoyed this post so much, poem, illustrations, interview — the whole laundry basket.

    I have never encountered a lizard — but my cousin used to call me Lizard. Does that count?

  15. I love lizards and newts. When we lived in Georgia, we had skinks under our front porch and anoles that hung out on the walls and in the bushes and trees. The kids loved watching them. One year we even found one in our Christmas tree — inside!
    Lizards definitely don’t make me shriek… but spiders… I don’t do well around spiders.

  16. How funny that Newt Gingrich is following you on Twitter. Wow. Have you seen the Pearls Before Swine comics — where the crocs are running against Newt Gingrich on an anti-amphibian campaign?

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