Big feet and trash can to fill

In honour of Carroll Spinney, I present to you two of my favourite storytime socks.

Image of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch socks

The cuffs of the socks read as follows:

Big Bird: I like big books.

Oscar: Go away! I’m reading!

Big Bird modeled wonder, astonishment, gentleness, and curiosity for me. Oscar taught me it’s okay to express my emotions, whatever they might be. No surprise then, that these two marvelous beings still sing at me and inform my work four decades later. My favourite picture of Carroll Spinney shows him performing Oscar while wearing Big Bird’s legs. Proof that these disparate creatures can (and often did) inhabit the same body.

I love this tribute to Carroll Spinney from Judy Gold. We are not alone, dear friends.

Easy-Bake Draft 1 – Durham, NC

27 JULY 2018

Danielle Chelles, Emily Hill, Jessica Flemming and I were joined by 23 audience members for the first draft of There’s An Easy-Bake Oven Where My Heart Should Be. We presented 30 minutes of material exploring how and why children play (playing at being adults, learning to jump rope, self-soothing), why they stop (shame, grief), and Emily threw a whopper of a tantrum that makes me grin whenever I think about it.  I took feedback on construction paper while everyone partook of childhood snacks (goldfish crackers, string cheese, fruit snacks, and juice pouches).  I’m so thankful to those 3 and those 23, and to fellow Summer Sisters Cheryl Chamblee and Sharon Eisner who contributed writing and Rachel Klem who helped shape the group scenes. I’m really proud of what we developed in such a short amount of time! Some of the material will go back to the drawing board, other things will be lovingly scrapped in favor of Ontario-based stories, and some bits were really magical and you’ll have to pry them from my easy-bake heart with tweezers before they leave the piece.

I am notorious for being too present in the moment and not taking enough photographs. Draft 1 was no exception. I have video for review purposes, but completely spaced grabbing a pic with my amazing artists! Please enjoy this freeze-frame…

Easy-Bake Draft 1 - Durham, NC
From the section “Skipping” in Draft 1: Jessica Flemming, Amber Wood, Danielle Chelles, Emily Hill

Now that I’m back in Ontario, next comes unpacking the emotional parts from which the piece derives its name. I received my 1978 Easy-Bake Oven while I was still in NC and to say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement. So light, so small, so insubstantial. Not at all the thing I remember from my childhood. A to-scale-with-adult-sized-Amber papier-mâché recreation may be in order.

And it should talk. 

XOXO from NC

04 – 07 JULY

Charlotte, NC with my college roommate and her family!  I got some real sleep and introduced a wee one to some books and watched her she started to really walk. Did you know that Mister Rogers Neighborhood is available on PBS Kids? This episode about the death of a goldfish led to a scene about sadness I’m working on for the easybakeheart project.  ❤


Goodyear Arts is an incredible multi-artist space that is a dream of both I want to go to there AND if you build it they will come (and I want to build that) proportions. I caught up with Matt Cosper and Kadey Ballard of XOXO to talk a bit about process and training before observing a generative workshop (Matt, Kadey, Jon Prichard and Will Rudolph). It was deeply good and normalizing to be among folks who approach collaborative art-making in a similar way.  If you are even remotely Charlotte-adjacent, go check out a workshop performance of the deeply cool All Our Little Innocence (the children’s crusade) on August 25 at Goodyear Arts. You can find more information on their website or by liking them on Facebook or following their Instagram.  (Can you tell I like them a lot?)

While you’re at Goodyear Arts for the workshop performance, please check out Holly Keogh’s First Day. She’s a massive oil on panel and quite possibly the spirit guide for the easybakeheart project. I’m in love with her and with Holly’s body of work.

09 – 12 JULY

Fayetteville, NC with Naaman and our family: lots of reading time with my newly 7-year-old niece and starting book 2 of our co-authored series. (For interested parties, book 2 is about a monkey and a butterfly who run a race; both characters have small parts in book 1).  I’m still drooling over the scrumptious meal we siblings ate at Chef & the Farmer.

Durham, NC: Last night, Naaman and I bid adieu to the marvelous Nancy Hanks (moving to WI today), and then ate dinner and talked children’s books with Lauren Rachel Greenspan and Will Flowers.


I’m now bunked down in Elisabeth Lewis Corley and Joseph Megel’s amazing house in Pittsboro, NC. My companion for the day is Touchstone, a charming cat who, in Elisabeth’s words, “has her yes and no about people.” I believe Touchstone is currently  leaning towards “meh.”

I submitted a site-specific theatre festival proposal this morning (non-easybake) and have been working on some materials in advance of a working dinner tonight for easybakeheart. Emily Hill and I begin generative workshops in earnest tomorrow afternoon! Barring major hurdles, we’ll have something to show in a workshop performance here in Durham, NC on July 27.

Today’s inspiration: We are Built to be Kind

Please approach the blue mat and throw a tantrum


Stephanie Judkins gave me a tour of the Heifer Learning Center at Heifer Ranch. The Ranch is an incredible place and the people there are doing some seriously compassionate education. Of course, I couldn’t leave the Ranch without purchasing a kid’s book about farm animals…We retired to Stephanie’s tiny house and I read to goats, chickens, guinea hens, and her delightful three-legged dog, Chaplin Sue. I remain smitten with Plushenko, pictured below with Giggle Giggle Quack, by Doreen Cronin.

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One of my reading companions for today! #easybakeheart

A post shared by Amber Wood (@lightbulbheart) on


Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing (glorious source of my new favorite book – If You Plant a Seed, by Kadir Nelson), Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (excellent), and the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center (books! bees! free breakfast and lunch for kids!) before I drove out to Jackson, MS.


Shannon and Joe Frost took me to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The MCRM offers a good example of spacial hospitality (that soft place to land). Each section is a semi-circle fanning out from an open central area with comfortable seats and soft, slowly changing lighting emanating from a swooping ceiling sculpture. Gospel music plays, allowing for an emotional reset for the museum-goer before launching back into the exhibits.


Joe Frost graciously gathered 6 of his alumni and an incoming Freshman: Connor Bingham, Ginny Holladay Jessee, James Kenyon, Laina Faul, Lauren Tobin, Lydia Lippincott, and Nina Frost. They were So Game and threw themselves immediately into play. We tackled experiencing primary emotions while exploring an array of toys, books, and paper.

I had them do the adult step of the Who/What/Where Adult v. Child Self-Care exercise, then asked them to turn their paper over and draw how the opposite of all that goodness made them feel. One of the participants later said that the air was sucked out of the room.


One by one, I took their drawings and asked them to approach a blue gym mat and throw a tantrum. They were beautiful in their similarities and differences. Some were long, loud, and took up lots of space. Others were quiet, contained, and utterly terrifying. I asked for a tantrum coach and they guided me through a workplace scenario so I could have a constructive, adult tantrum with a piece of construction paper (which, btw, led directly to a scene I wrote this morning…).

I read In My Heart: a book of feelings, by Jo Witek, aloud and they played while experiencing the emotions associated with the words. We rolled primary and secondary emotion dice and played in the resulting combined emotional states, then wrote four-line scenes corresponding to the combo-states we felt most at home in. 


All of the above was really fruitful, and my favorite part came when we took out pictures of our tiny selves and adopted those poses to find a) how we felt then and b) how we might wish to feel now as adults.  That’s me in a 20-month-old version of a herkie. My words: open, curious, seen. After a pose was demonstrated and described, the rest of us matched it before moving to the next person. The best roadtrip phrase so far came from this activity: “airport pooping.” Genius. Thank you, Ginny!

By the end, everyone laid on their bellies or sat cross-legged and decorated a large cardboard box. It was marvelous.


Much needed downtime with the Frost Family.


Birmingham, Alabama
I am still processing the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park. The Park is home to the Freedom Walk, a series of sculptures depicting police dogs, water cannons, and children imprisoned for marching for civil rights in 1963. After viewing the church and walking the park, I sat down to try to read selected children’s books aloud and started weeping after reading the first sentence of Let the Children March (Monica Clark-Robinson, Frank Morrison illus.). I chose, instead, to self-sooth by reading the books to myself: The Golden Rule (Ilene Cooper, Gabi Swiatkowska illus.), If You Plant a Seed (Kadir Nelson), and The Rabbits’ Wedding (Garth Williams – the book was banned in Alabama in 1959 for “integrationist propaganda”). 

Cleveland, TN
Stacey Isom Campbell! Also, I bought a 1978 Easy-Bake Oven in working order 🙂


Writing and resting and real tacos and lemon pie and parallel play with Stacey. A good day.

Tomorrow – on to Charlotte, NC