Tallulah The Tooth Fairy CEO is here!

Here's Book #7 from The English Schoolhouse, you guys!
And she's a winner, in my opinion.
When you think of the tooth fairy, a certain image may come to mind.
Depending on where you live or where you're from, she may not even be human!

Truth is, until now the tooth fairy's true identity has been a carefully kept secret.
Turns out, the tooth fairy looks like this...

Ain't nothin' tiny about her.

Tallulah's a boss--CEO of the only company that has a complete monopoly on the primary teeth market--Teeth Titans, Incorporated.

Here she is at work...

I'm so excited to share the truth of who the tooth fairy is and what it is she actually does with the world!
You're invited to pre-order your signed copy (by me, Tamara, the author) at www.theenglishschoolhouse.com. (It's also a dollar cheaper on the website than on amazon).

If you just can't wait that long, you can order a copy (or two or three or five or eighteen copies) on Amazon.com.

Reviews and shares are greatly, greatly appreciated!
Happy reading!
Love and toothpaste!

A New Story - Fatou & the Kora: A Work in Progress

So about a year ago I was staying at a friend's house in Dallas when a story woke me up outta my sleep in the middle of the night, demanding to be written. I have a thing for West African stories, fairytales in particular. This story is set in Dakar, Senegal, and features a little girl named Fatou who, against all cultural and gender roles set in place in her village, plays the kora in secret. It's quite possibly one of my favorite stories thus far, and I'm pleased beyond words that Elena Tommasi Ferroni, master Italian painter and artist for whom I curate here in Rome, has agreed to illustrate it. The title is Fatou and the Kora.

Since Elena started late last week I've been walking my nearly eight-months pregnant self to her studio almost daily to marvel at both her process and progress. I think you'll agree that her illustrations so far, capture so much of the magic and whimsy of West Africa and the spirit of a magnificent fairytale.

Check out some excerpts of the story below as well as the vignettes that Elena has begun.

Each painting is a work of art. As such, the originals as well as prints of each finished piece will be available for purchase on my art online gallery's website, The Nef Gallery.

Bakumasela...or let's begin, in Mandinka.

In the West African city of Dakar, not so long ago...
In a land once composed of kingdoms and empires
that is now known as Senegal...

It was in these routine roles that Fatou first learned the importance of paying attention,
 a skill that never escaped her. 
She listened with intensity when her mother shared her secrets.

“The way to make good food, Fatou my love,
 is the same way to have a good idea. The more you let it marinate, the better it becomes.”

Like many children around her age, Fatou was fascinated by the world around her. 
She seemed to float instantly and seamlessly between the two planes she inhabited and understood:
 human and spirit. 
For Fatou, there was little or no difference between the two.

Ah, but much like trucks and dolls, robots and dress up clothes, there are those who think that certain playthings are only for certain children. 
It was understood, by almost all there in that region of Senegal, 
that the kora simply was not an instrument for girls.

“But how could that be?” Fatou would wonder, enchanted by Papa Moussa’s playing. “How could that be when the kora is so clearly a woman itself?” 

In love yet?
Yeah, me too.

Kinky Twists, an Afro & and Therapy for a Teeth Obsession

One of the things I love about social media is you can follow the creative process of whatever you're into. I love seeing the sketches and doodles of my favorite artists, illustrators & designers on Instagram and Facebook, particularly the ones with whom I collaborate. Today I got a mock up of one of the pages of my upcoming book Tallulah, the Tooth Fairy CEO, illustrated by Rome-based graphic designer Federico Fabiani.

And it's too good not to share.
Enjoy and check back in a couple of days to see if there are any updates!

Tallulah the Tooth Fairy, illustrated by Federico Fabiani

The face you make when you're the Beyonce of the teeth industry, you lunch with the likes of Santa's second wife Charlene & Prince is your first cousin on your momma's side...

meet Tallulah, the Tooth Fairy CEO
image by Federico Fabiani

So of the many books that changed my entire life and perspective on all things, I'd say The Alchemist is pretty high on the list.

Nothing besides You are a Badass

and my momma have made me believe more in the power of asking, believing and receiving. (I've given out so many copies of Jen Sincero's book I could damn near be a rep for her).

The image above of Tallulah the Tooth Fairy is proof that if you move in the direction of what you really want, do your part (in this case that included writing the story and sharing a bit of it), ask for what you need, and then remain open to receiving just that in the form that the universe deems best, the thrills that await are just mind-boggling and glorious.

So I was so excited about this story that it became my new favorite thing. And while blogging I wrote something like, "Lord Jesus! I just can't wait! Somebody come illustrate this thing!"

And then boom.
Federico Fabiani, an amazing graphic designer and artist who designed the first website for The English Schoolhouse when it operated as just a language school, slid this beauty in my inbox with a simple "Hello."

I fell in love with it.
And so did a bunch of my Facebook friends.
A few have already put in requests for prints.

Faith =

Sneak Peek at my new book - Tallulah, Tooth Fairy and CEO

Or that's the tentative title.
Hello, friends!
It's been a minute!
But I'm BaCk like the beginning of this Yonce song...

hot sauce.

So if you've followed the blog for a couple of years you know that I get a lot of inspiration for my books from my sons and my experiences. How this book came about is no different.

I'll save myself time and just copy my Facebook post from a couple of days ago. (Um, I'm on the 'gram too--@tamarapizzoli. Holla.)

Rome today...
An example of how my book ideas come about. Noah got home all excited because one of his front teeth is finally gone. He knows he has one job...get it under his pillow safely before going to bed. He hasn't been home two hours and he's already lost the thing somewhere in his bedroom.
Me: (emotional, nearly 5 months pregnant): NoW what do we do?!?! What are you going to leave the tooth fairy?!?!
Him: *shrugs* I'll just write her a letter and explain what happened. I'm sure she'll understand.
Me: hmmmmm....

So we never did find the tooth. And I was so inspired by the idea of leaving a letter for her instead of something pearly and white that I didn't even ask him to look for it. Noah did write the letter, and it went a little something like this-
Tooth fairy,
I hab (sp) a tooth for you but I lost it.
From: Noah

The minute he and his brother Milo were in bed I started writing furiously.
By 11 pm Tallulah the Tooth Fairy was done.

Enjoy the first part of it below. Some things that are important to keep in mind as you read--
-In my imagination, Tallulah is a business mogul with a thing for teeth.
-She's incredibly fab and a cross between two of my life muses--Iris Peynado and Iris Apfel.
(side note: Iris Peynado plays my therapist in my upcoming web series Black Girls in Rome. You can get a glimpse of her here)

-Tallulah the Tooth Fairy is well-connected. She's had lunch with Santa's wife, Charlene.

The story came out quirky and fun and zany and I adore it. So much so that I'm desperately dating illustrators today. I want this thing done like NOW! I have two in mind--Elena Tommasi Ferroni, a dear friend of mine and the main artist for whom I curate. We collaborated on a recent exhibition at Fox Gallery here in Rome--In Nero: Fairytales and Histories Reimagined and Retold. 
Me as Cleopatra by Elena Tommasi Ferroni, 2015
And Maria Chiara Castelli, brilliant artist and daughter of Gaetano Castelli, Art Director of The Moulin Rouge. Art just runs in the veins of that family, I suppose.
Maria Chiara's nephew by Maria Chiara Castelli, 2015

Mmmm-k. So here we go.
Now remember, The Tooth Fairy looks like this...

photo credit: Sheila McKinnon

And dresses like this...

Accessories all adorned with teeth, mind you.

Lord JESUS! I can't wait! Somebody come illustrate this thing!

Tallulah the tooth fairy had been in the tooth business for as long as she or anyone she knew could remember. The thing is, people have always liked to romanticize the idea of what Talullah’s job actually is and what she actually does. But make no mistake…pearly whites was more than just Tallulah’s business. It was her career. And she took dentition seriously. What began as just a genuine curiosity for all things dental had grown and evolved into a full-blown, thriving corporation founded, run, and managed by Tallulah—Teeth Titans, Inc.

So serious was Tallulah about her commitment to ivories that she also founded the National Association for the Appreciation and Care of Primary Teeth—or the NAACP-T. Like any notable mogul, Tallulah found she was most productive when she struck a healthy balance between her passion, purpose, and what pays.

Thus she adhered to a strict schedule that kept her both busy and fulfilled.
On Monday and Wednesday mornings it was coffee or tea with no sugar (it’ll rot your teeth), a quick work out session and a chat with her therapist.

(illustration inspiration—therapist in the chair: “So when did the obsession with teeth begin? … Tallulah on the couch: “I like to think of it as more of a calling…”)

Tuesday and Thursday mornings were dedicated to yoga, pilates and running errands.

Friday a.m. was reserved for visiting museums. She found exhibitions on teeth to be particularly fascinating.

Each afternoon Tallulah dedicated to training other up and coming tooth fairies. What?
You’re not surprised, are you?
Well of course there’s more than one tooth fairy.
There are way too many lost teeth in the world to attend to for one person to manage.
Tallulah was the tooth fairy, not Santa Claus….though she had lunched with Santa’s lovely wife Charlene once.

(illustration inspiration: Tallulah and Charlene having lunch in an incredibly chic igloo…Charlene asking the waiter, an elf, for an Irish coffee.)

The road to being a mogul hadn’t been easy, Tallulah liked to say, but it had been worth it.

(illustration inspiration: Tallulah being interviewed on a late-night talk show)

“I just became swamped with all the work so I had to hire additional help. Sure I’m in it for the teeth; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. But the greatest satisfaction is knowing that I’m providing a great service to children around the world…Each and every fairy is trained by me. Yes, I oversee all the hiring…”

The term “fairy” is just my clever marketing ploy to soften and make palpable what we really are: an unstoppable team of strategized earners at the top of our game and armed to the teeth with teeth. Each tooth fairy learns everything they need to know in my 3 week training session. Enrollment is available for qualified candidates at the low price of $795.

(illustration inspiration—Tallulah addressing an auditorium full of fairy hopefuls from a stage much like the TED talks. Huge stage, she’s the only one on it, with one mic and a screen behind her that reads—
Questions you may get but are not obligated to answer:
-How does the tooth fairy get in the house?
-What do we do with the teeth?
-How are we notified when a tooth is lost?)

Tallulah speaking: The answers to these questions and more are in the top secret Teeth Titans, Inc. Employee Manual.

Each evening, after an early dinner and a bit of relaxing, Tallulah began her rounds as head tooth fairy. Sure she could afford to be a lazy lie about, but nothing gave Tallulah quite the same thrill as sliding a shiny tooth out from under a child’s pillow and inserting something gleaming and jingly or crisp and easily folded in exchange.

And so she did.
Night after night...

Last thing...
wouldn't it be a RIOT if Santa's wife looked like this?!

I love my job.

You find the best treasures in hell...

Lemme explain.

2014 was arguably the worst year of my life.
A little over a year ago, after reeling from losing my sister and deciding to leave a marriage I was no longer growing from, I stumbled upon a frame shop in Piazza Pollarola here in Rome owned by a second generation frame craftsman named Sandro.

It really wasn't his frames I was drawn to, but more an advertisement in the front door of his shop for painting lessons. I inquired within and Sandro walked my mom and me over across the piazza and down the way to what would become a creative haven for me, Elena's studio.

I entered only with the desire to do something I've always been attracted to but never really tried...painting.
Of course I was overwhelmed with the beauty within...

And funny enough, my soul responded to this whimsical wonder of a place in truly unexpected ways...I found myself telling Elena not only the truth about what was going on with me, but dreams and ideas as well.

Elena and another one of my favorite people, internationally renowned artist Rolando Diaz

Much like the kindergarten classroom I used to facilitate as an educator or the classes I would run as the owner of The English Schoolhouse when it was a school, Elena reinforced in me the potential and power of being in a risk-free creative environment. I don't recall one time that she dismissed an idea of mine or had anything other than an encouraging, positive word to offer.

Now you would think that as a children's book author it would have dawned on me before now to collaborate with Elena on upcoming books and projects. Nope. It hadn't before recently. I think that my spirit just found so much fulfilment in simply being in her space, and company. What a gift it is to have such people in my life.

Anyway, one of the projects I'm currently working on is a fiction web series loosely based on my life entitled In Nero: Black Girls in Rome. There are several spin off projects related to it to date, including a mixtape, a photography series...and now, with Elena, an exhibition.

We are both taken with fairytales and often exchange our favorites and ones we know when I'm in her studio.
"Wouldn't it be cool to do an entire series on fairytales reimagined and retold through the In Nero lens?" I asked her a few weeks back.
"Siiiiiii," she replied, "Facciamo. Let's do it."

And then it was a plan.
And a dream I wasn't even aware I had
come true.

And I'm pleased and amazed to announce that our first collaborative exhibition entitled In Nero: Fairytales and Histories Reimagined and Retold will take place at Fox Gallery here in Rome on November 7 and will last through the new year.

How bitter and deliciously sweet the road has been.
And that just may be the point of it all.

Enjoy a sneak peek at a couple of the pieces Elena is working on right now for the exhibit...



Isn't it grand?

A Sneak Peek at My New Story: The King and the Flute

I love when life has beautiful surprises waiting for you...
so here was my Facebook update yesterday--

Rome today...
i am grateful for the gifts.
sarah brought her husband over to help with a situation i didn't have the attention or desire to deal with myself...clearing out plants that died while i was in new york. the watering system didn't work but that's another story. anyway, what sarah didn't know was that i've been musing on a story, a retelling of the pied piper. have a new friend and a flautist/musician coming from nyc to rome next month to work on the audiobook for it and more...but the story wasn't written.
correction. the story WAS written. it just hadn't been told to me yet.
so i'm having breakfast and chatting up sara and all of a sudden she says, "that reminds me of a nigerian proverb." i love stories, y'all. they're the best things. i collect them like tom collects people. 
"wait!" i shrieked. "lemme get a pen."
my life is beginning to work in such a beautifully synchronous way since i've started just doing what the hell i want and am attracted to. so much so that it didn't surprise me in the least when sara said, "this is a story about a king, and a man who plays the flute."
"OF COURSE IT IS!" i laughed, thanking her and the universe for the gift of the moment. for getting what i wanted. for affirmation that this story NEEDS to be told. that i am humble enough to listen and worthy enough to retell/remix it. elena will illustrate it. i will post some photos of hers that sarah and i were looking at as inspiration because, you know, Facebook is my checks and balances/focus group tool. (hey, at least it's not my therapist.)
so here are sarah's words mixed with mine. she began:
This one goes like this.
There lived a king in a very far away village. The king had a servant who would come every day to play the flute for him. Just for him to relax. Because he was the best flute player in all the land. 
Me: he needs a name. What could his name be?
Sarah: Hmmmm. Kola.
Kola knew, he realized he was the best flute player in the land. One day Kola pretended to be sick. Very sick. He told his wife to tell the King he was sick and couldn't play the flute. 
Me: Why would he want to do that?
Sarah: he knew he had a special gift. He wanted the king to be desperate. He wanted everyone to be looking for him.
And the King was angry. I mean angry. The King asked the entire kingdom to find someone who could at least play a couple of notes on the flute...
The story is finished. I wrote and elaborated and got carried away and swept up as she retold what's normally a very short, succinct lesson for children in Nigeria. We were both wowed by each other's engagement & insights in the story. What a beautiful thing it is to create.
I can't wait to work on it. I can't wait to see it in reality. 
"What should the name be for the flute player's wife?" Sarah asked.
"Sarah, of course," I smiled. Elena can paint her to look like you.
And the dedication to this book soon to be pulled into reality will read:
For Milo & Noah
and for Sarah, who told me one of the most beautiful stories.

So today I spent a bit of time with the story...and I finished it.
I'm in love with it.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

The King and the Flute
by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli
illustrated by Elena Tommasi Ferroni

In the West African city of Lagos, quite some time ago. In a country that was once home to many great kingdoms, and is today known as Nigeria, there lived a young King by the name of Ademuyiwa. He was known as King Ade for short.

The King had a palace full of servants to attend to his every desire and whim, and he had a daily routine to which he preferred to adhere. He awoke of his own volition and if no urgent matters awaited, enjoyed a breakfast of tea and bread accompanied by a verbal debriefing of the state of the kingdom. Immediately following his first meal, King Ade would call for his morning entertainment: Kola, the flute player.

Now Kola was a master flautist. The notes that passed from his breath through the instrument and into thin air were indescribably beautiful and felt effortless. The sound naturally pleased and soothed King Ade very much. In fact, the King had become reliant on Kola and the flute, as hearing the gorgeous melody made by both relaxed and calmed him like nothing else. And so, it wasn’t just in the mornings that King Ade called Kola to serenade him with the flute. It was all throughout the day and oftentimes very late into the night. More than once, Kola had been awakened at the darkest hour, summoned to play a lullaby to aid the restless King back to sleep.

Make no mistake, Kola enjoyed his job, and was happy to have it. Had he been asked, though, he would have gladly told anyone that a day off once in awhile would have been very much appreciated. Kola also knew the value of his work.  He knew he was the best flautist in all of Lagos, and he believed that sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.

It was on a Tuesday morning that King Ade summoned Kola to play his favorite song right after breakfast, and Kola, simply put, just didn’t feel like it. “Sarah,” he whispered to his wife as he pulled their Egyptian bedsheets up to his eyelashes, “Go tell the King I am not well. Tell him I cannot play today. And I probably won’t be well enough to play tomorrow either.” Sarah arched one eyebrow higher than the other, rolled both eyes and went to deliver the message to the King...
So now comes the fun part...styling the book.

Here's one of the main characters. Sweet Sarah, who told me a version of the story yesterday and let me feel comfortable enough to embellish and remix it significantly on the spot. 

Sarah's to the left and I'm on the right.
We may be cousins, we've decided.
We look a lot alike.

King Ade will be my son Noah and my other son Milo will be King Fumi. They are the kings of my heart, after all.

And the illustrator, who is such a gift in my life, is Elena Tommasi Ferroni, please do yourself a visual favor, take a break from your life, and check out her website here.

I'm using some of her existing pieces as illustration inspiration. Now's the super fun part because I get to style the clothes and the scenes and is basically art directing and creative consulting for my own...stuff. All the fun.

Elena is my art teacher and I now curate for her, but that's another story. That's another post.