Jerrold Connors

May 31, 2023

Why Was That Seagull Carrying Orange Paint Anyway??

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

I’ve spent a good amount of time wondering why the seagull in The Big Orange Splot was carrying that can of paint. How could I not? It’s the most compelling mystery in all of children’s literature. I finally decided to address the question in a storytelling performance on YouTube two years ago. The recording has been up since then and always thought I might share it with you, but held off because doing so felt self-serving.

Tonight, though, I was enjoying some of your narrated stories for maybe the hundredth time and I thought I might finally (hopefully) return the favor. If you’d like to watch it, you can find it here:

The answer (as I imagine it) isn’t as grand as Mr. Plumbean’s awakening, but I enjoyed making it. Thank you for the inspiration and all the wonderful stories, narrated and otherwise.

Jerrold Connors

Daniel replies:

Dear Mr. Connors --

I am surprised that you, a creative person yourself, and responsible for many fine stories, do not know the important fact about writers, and what things they write may mean. Well, maybe you know about it, and just temporarily forgot. Or maybe you think there's a class of writers to which you do not belong, and the important fact applies to them and their work, but not you and yours. Anyway, I will now remind you of this fact, you and others who may be reading over your shoulder. Here is the fact: Writers do not necessarily know. That is it. That is the fact. About the book, THE BIG ORANGE SPLOT, I wrote the story while away on a trip. I didn't have my nearly-professional art materials with me, so I went to the drug store and bought cheap sketchbook meant for children, and a set of markers for dollar. I made sketches, and sent them, with the story to a publisher. They took the sketches for finished art, and wrote to me that they wanted to publish the whole thing, the story and the drawings made with cheap drugstore art supplies, and meant to be sketches. Not wishing to complicate things, I said yes, thank you, and go ahead. I didn't think the book was very good. With better art maybe it would be a little better, but not very much. (Through the years, it has sold a million copies.) Years later a high government official told me she required her subordinates to read that book when they came to work for her. I asked her why. So  she explained the book to me. "You know," I said. "That sounds like a pretty good book." And you ask me why the seagull had the can of orange paint?