Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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In a Mall Far Far Away

June 30, 2013
Do you remember when malls had weekend art shows? I loved entering a mall and smelling the oil paint and turpentine, seeing the portable galleries, artists working on paintings and chatting with passersby. As a kid I was painfully aware that all of these artists, even those creating simple landscapes, were producing work far more proficient than mine but I always figured I’d improve. It was only a matter of time until I was selling art in mall art shows.


As it turned out, I did participate in such an event, but only once. The year was 1980 and I’d carted several dozen landscapes to our local mall. I hung them on portable walls I’d hammered together. The mall was packed that weekend but I had yet to sell anything.  


On Sunday, the last day of the show, I noticed a distraught woman staring at my paintings. “Is something wrong?” I asked.


I’m looking for a gift for my son’s tenth birthday. All he cares about is Star Wars. He eats and breathes it. I’d like to get him something special but the stores don’t have any Star Wars merchandise. Too bad you aren’t selling a painting of Yoda,” she said.


I was determined to sell something before I packed up and left. “Come back in an hour and I’ll have a painting of Yoda for you.”


“Really?” she muttered.


“Sure. Just give me one hour.”


She smiled and promised to return in an hour.


When she’d gone I hunted the stores for an image of Yoda. Hard to believe but she was right; in spite of all the merchandise surrounding the Star Wars franchise, on this weekend there were no Star Wars items for sale. How would I keep my promise?


Perched on my easel was a small canvas I’d covered with a Monet-like water lily painting. I began to repaint it. Aside from the fact that Yoda was green, I remembered reading that his pachyderm eyes were actually based on Einstein’s. Deep, sad and soulful. I added green ears based on pictures of pointed Turkish slippers I’d seen, dressed my character in a gunny sack and put a light saber in his hands.


She arrived just as I was finishing. I had no idea what her reaction might be but shoppers gathered to watch me paint were shouting out “Y-O-D-A” so I figured I must have hit the mark. She offered me a hundred bucks for the painting, which I happily accepted. I had to remind her that the oil painting was wet and would smear if touched within twenty-four hours. She promised to be careful.


I found out afterwards that of the fifty artists in attendance that weekend only twelve managed to sell anything. My Portrait of Yoda was one of the twelve. I’m glad I don’t have a photograph of this painting because I’d probably cringe if I saw it—a green midget resembling Einstein, with a hint of pachyderm and ears like Turkish slippers. But I do hope that ten year old boy was pleased with it.


So ended my one and only mall art show. I haven’t seen one of these events in years. Have you?



Note: I’ve heard that Blogger is discontinuing its Blog Reader on Monday, which might make it hard for me to find some of your posts. I’ve signed up to follow many of you via other methods and I’ll continue to do so. But if you don’t hear from me it’s simply because I’m still trying to find you.





oh Stephen- thanks for the huge laugh- I visualized the "mallsters" standing around watching you paint Yoda and had to chuckle!! I have not seen anyone in a mall painting ever- watching you paint Yoda would have been a treat! And what is Blog Reader? I hate it when the techies decide to change things.
By: Kathe W. on June 30, 2013
Glad you are now accessible on my blog link. I also will be spending time on that scavenger hunt...maybe. Wish I could see that painting and I am impressed that someone would pay $100 for a painting for a kid!
By: Tabor on June 30, 2013
What a great post. Well you delivered. I can't remember the last time I've see an art show in the mall. Don't' go to the mall much anymore. Have a fabulous day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on June 30, 2013
I can't imagine you not selling your work. I love everything you ever put on your posts. As for the readers. I have really been enjoying Freedly. One click imports all of the Google reader and there are a number of choices how you can sort your blog reading list. For convenience, I put a shortcut icon on my desktop so I can click on it to see what blogs I haven't read.
By: Cheryl P. on June 30, 2013
i detest malls so can't say i've seen an art show in one. :) i use feedly.com.
By: TexWisGirl on June 30, 2013
You have the skills of an artist and the savvy of a salesperson. Good for you!
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 30, 2013
Good grief, I can't remember when I last saw a painting at one of our local malls, in fact, it would probably be about the time you mentioned, early 80's, at least. But good for you, and I hope the kid was happy with his original Yoda! Cat
By: Cat on June 30, 2013
I don't remember art shows in our malls, but we had occasional street fairs and there were painters there. I bet your pic made some kid really happy. I'll try to remember to put a link to my blog from now on. :-) http://lexacain.blogspot.com/
By: Lexa Cain on June 30, 2013
How nice that were able to do this for the kid's mother! I can't recall ever having seen an art show at a mall. I'm another one who doesn't quite understand this Google Reader thing. I have all the blogs I like to read bookmarked in my browser's "My Favorites." I like what Lexa Cain is doing - that's one thing I miss on your new site, the ability to click through to the commentator's blog. http://my-couch-corner.blogspot.com/
By: Pixel Peeper on June 30, 2013
I don't know what to do about the blog reader thingy. I'm at a loss.Some people said it was going away this weekend. If I have a problem, I'll ask Elisa. She knows all. I used to see arts and crafts shows at mall, but I don't know if anyone still has them. I avoid malls like I'll avoid hell when I die. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 30, 2013
Good to know that you can ... paint on your feet. Don't recall any mall art shows; but last nite we went to dinner at a restaurant that was featuring/selling a local artist's work. Not the first time I've seen that either.,
By: tom sightings on June 30, 2013
Aww, what a wonderful uplifting story and hey! there's a moral in there - where there's a will there's certainly a way. I can tell you as someone who absolutely cannot paint, if people could recognise what you were creating, then I don't think you need to cringe about it! Living in the UK, I don't every remember artists painting in our equivalent of malls: shopping centres but I do still see the odd artist busking in our local town and they're generally amazing. There's a sand artist who comes from time to time (3d dogs are his speciality and they could be the real thing) and one of those artists who does the surreal perspective paintings such as the well you feel you could step (or fall!) into. I am in total awe of such talent. Great post, thanks for making me smile.
By: Jackie Buxton on June 30, 2013
Great story! I'm not surprised you were one of the successful ones that day. Or any day since. What's this about not being able to find my friends? I missed that memo. Are you talking about that list I have on the right of my page? Yikes....what were they thinking?
By: Scott Park on June 30, 2013
Yoda is my favorite character in Star Wars, too! Your rendering must have been much better than you think if she offered you $100 for it in 1980 at the mall. Awesome!! :)
By: Rita McGregor on June 30, 2013
She spent a hundred bucks on a ten year olds birthday present back in 1980? Jeez, she must have been flush with cash!
By: Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous on June 30, 2013
Congratulations, it shows your talent!
By: mimi on June 30, 2013
Within one hour and without a picture to look at? That's hard to believe. You're exceptionally talented, Stephen. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on June 30, 2013
A feel good story where the good guy wins.
By: Red on June 30, 2013
I'd love to see how your Yoda painting turned out. Clearly you should have done a whole line of Star Wars paintings.
By: PT Dilloway on June 30, 2013
Oh you're a clever one.. and talented. Cool that you were able to keep your promise and sell a painting, to boot.
By: Hilary on June 30, 2013
The force was definitely with you that day
By: John on July 1, 2013
I remember when a lot of stores in the mall weren't opened on Sundays. But then, there weren't a whole lot of malls back then, either.
By: Skip on July 1, 2013
Ah, the olden days when we didn't have the Internet always within reach. Good for you, using your imagination to make an image that worked.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on July 1, 2013
Wow! Maybe you should have looked into a part-time job as a police portrait artist.
By: Val on July 1, 2013
That painting probably wasn't as bad as you remember and you made that woman's day.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on July 2, 2013
I'm sure the young boy loved your painting, Stephen. The late Stanley Marcus, whom I exchanged letters with for years in Dallas would have been amazed by this story too!
By: Michael Manning on July 2, 2013

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