Wednesday, May 29, 2013

You Always Have a Story with You

I don’t like going out to eat.

It's not that I don't like to eat - I do.

It's not that I love cooking - I don't.

It's that with little children, a sit down dinner at a restaurant is only just below the joy of having a crocodile nibble each of your toes slowly as an appetizer rather than just gobbling you up in one bite.

If you're one of those people who believe children should be seen and not heard, then you would not want to dine with our family. They are nice kids and oh so delightful. But even the most pleasant of children cannot sit still for 70 minutes. (I saw one try once, but his insides kept jiggling so much he finally imploded. I could barely finish my ice cream after seeing that. )

At an Irish pub the other night, I was burning quickly through my usual bag of tricks. They colored, emptied my purse contents, and made a condiment tower. The girls even explored the restaurant's antiques, pondered how to access the apps on an old wooden phone, and tried to squish each other with a clothes wringer.

It looked kind of like this but
with a pointier hat and a big, warty nose.
(by Dan Perry via flickr)
Finally the food came, but neither child wanted to eat ("too bready" chicken fingers and "too cheesy" mac & cheese.) I wasn't eating my "too hot" fish and chips either, causing the children-at-dinner clock to tick even louder.  Then, I noticed my fish had a huge gnarly nose sticking out from under a large pointy hat.

The Fish Witch quickly mounted my fork, and an impromptu play commenced. The clumsy Fish Witch had an accident on her French-fried broom stick, dropped it in the French Fry Forest, and couldn't find it. (Side note - if you've ever wanted to get your children to throw French fries all over the table, this is a really good starting point.) The quality of the story left much to be desired, but the children were rapt.

Now if you are one of those people who believe one should not play with one's food, you would not want to dine with me. But if you have no such standards, remember you always have a story in you, and a good (or bad) story can tame even the wildest children.  Especially if it's acted out with food.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

That's the Writer

The coolest thing happened to me this week:

I had sneaked off to the office to steal 10 minutes to write while the girls hosted their 13th Barbie wedding for the day. Not having any formal ninja training, my attempts to slip away are usually quickly thwarted.  I heard the wedding break up (something Ken said wrong, apparently) and little voices checking the bathroom for mommy (I hide there a lot.)

Four feet pitter-pattered up the steps, and I was found before my chair was even dented.

But they decided to play together in the office, so I kept working. They were playing "see who can scream the loudest." I'm not sure who was winning, but I know I was losing. Once that game was complete (thankfully prior to my stabbing myself with a #2 pencil,) they moved into a pretend game. One was the mommy, and one was the baby.

(paper image by Billy Alexander via
At one point, the baby turned to me and asked "Mommy, can I have more milk in my bottle?" To which the other mommy said, "Sweetie pie, that's not the Mommy. That's the writer."

That's the writer.

My heart melted. My shoulders rose. I let the words bounce happily in my head. That's the writer. I was so pleased, I nearly turned into the Tickle Monster. But I stopped myself. If I was playing the writer, I was sure going to put my best into the role.

So I kept tapping away at the keyboard, rustling papers, and saying "what's the right word for..." I performed magnificently, if I do say so myself, with the exception of a smile which was slightly too big.

I was the writer.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Seven Sweet Side Effects of Blogging

Sure there's lots of discussions on whether writers should blog. In the context of the "to blog or not to blog" discussion, blogging is considered one of two things: 1) Advertising or 2) A Distraction. Blogging can certainly do a great job at those things.  
Fox in Box
(Fox bMarcin Rybarczyk,
Box by Billy Alexander, via

I know you have lots of other priorities like feeding your family or earning real money or showering once a week...blah, blah, blah...but as a blogging convert, I can tell you there are many benefits of blogging for writers -and for anyone - to consider.  

Seven Sweet Side Effects anyone could experience from blogging:

1.      Share your knowledge about, well, anything with, well, anyone who happens by. You love Health Food? Great tell us about it and enjoy acknowledgement from others who do too.
2.      Build community with other people who love the same things (Stargazing? Pickle-making?) Discuss the most current topics and share insights on solving problems. ("My pickles wrinkled!")
Rocks in Box
(Box by Billy Alexander,
Rocks by Karin Lindstrom,
3.      Learn more about your topic (Crafting with Lint, perhaps?) from readers who have experienced similar situations, reassurance from readers who agree with you, and lessons from readers who disagree with your points. ("I would never add glitter to my lint!")
4.      Be creative. Especially if you're in a non-creative day job, like say an accountant or engineer, you may not get to be creative for most of the week.  Let yourself have a break. Creative thinking is needed in every job and will help you shine.
5.      Hone your writing skills.  Expressing yourself on paper (or screen) is important for any career and even in your personal life. Being able to write well makes the difference between others supporting your ideas or not. 
Writer in Box
(Box by Billy Alexander via
6.      Photography skills. Blog posts need pictures, because humans are visual beings and search engine robots like to know a human wrote a post. Whether snapping your own or editing pictures with free software like Gimp, photo skills are great to have for work and for home. (Okay, I'm not great, but I had fun putting these things in boxes-->)
7.      Gain confidence. Even 1 follower is 1 follower and having someone interested in what you say feels great. You do actually know some stuff. You have value to add to the world. You are uniquely you. And you are wonderful! (That's the picture book version of a pep talk...)

Bonus #8. I forgot one! Excitement. Perhaps not everyone is as easily amused as yours truly, but I get a little rush when I get comments or a retweet. Life can be a little routine at times, and blogging is a great way to spice it up!

All for the low price of a couple hours a week. That's one of the best deals out there!

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Childhood Memories are Dead

I had the pleasure of kicking off the NaPiBoWriWee event hosted by Paula Yoo on Wednesday with my post: 7 Simple Steps to Write 7 Picture Books in 7 Days. Stop on over to have a laugh and join in the challenge to write 7 drafts in a week!

On the downside this week, I had the misfortune of realizing my childhood memories wouldn't work in my writing because they are extinct

Take for example:
Lauri wrapped the telephone cord around her finger and listened to Zack's story about making the winning shot in the basketball game. All the loops of the cord were stretched straight as she sought one more inch of privacy. Unfortunately, she ran into her big sister who was tapping her watch. "I have to go," Lauri said. "You say bye first." "No you," Zack said. "No you," she giggled. Her sister pounded the receiver with a sneer. Click.
This is a real telephone.
(image by Rybson via
See what I mean? First of all, cords?  I barely even remember what a telephone cord is anymore, and it's my memory! [Note to any kids reading this: a "telephone cord" used to transmit sound from the receiver to the phone back in the last century long before wireless signals filled the air.]

Second, do they even have to worry about finding privacy with wireless phones? They can walk around, go outside, hide in their closets. It's not fair! (whoops, that was little me throwing a tantrum)

Plus, do they even have to wait for a turn or do they just use their own cellphone? I suppose they don't even have 45 minute phone conversations while watching the Wonder Years with their boyfriend. Nah, they probably just text between tweets about American Idol picks.

Can you spot the problems in this passage?
Lauri hopped on her bike and rode to the library. She peddled so fast her pigtails flew in the wind.  She wandered through the stacks, selected a few books, and brought them to the librarian to stamp.  When she walked out the colors in the sky meant Mom would be serving dinner soon.

 a.      No helmet?!
b.      Out on the streets alone?!
c.       The librarian stamped the book.
d.      Just knowing it was dinner without knowing the time or getting a text
e.       All of the above

Last one:
Lauri's head still hurt from Johnny pulling her ponytail, but her heart hurt worse. She thought he liked her, but then why would he hurt her? She kicked harder on the swings leaving the sad thoughts behind her on the breeze.

There are still swings, right? Boys are still immature, aren't they? And I know hearts still get broken.

Maybe there are still a few timeless memories!  

Okay, fess up - what childhood memories of yours are irrevocably dated? Or if you're young, could you help me update these scenarios?!

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