A Little Newt

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

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.