Monday, June 24, 2013

Flexing Your Imagination Muscles

            I love writing for children because it makes my imagination muscles big and strong. Take for instance last night when my husband gave me a kiss before bed. (Don't get worried this isn't going anywhere crazy. Imagine the bedroom with two twin beds, if it helps). Anyhow, something stabbed my lip. Was it a bug with a sword?  Did his nose have a dagger, I wondered.  Had he recently transformed into a vampire?
            The truth was even scarier- a mutant mustache hair! If you are young, you may not realize men occasional grow super thick, sharp hairs kind of like Wolverine (of X-Men fame.) Although, come to think of it, I've only kissed this one man so it's quite possible this does not happen to all men, and I am in fact
Look at those hairs.
Being a hippo wife would be tough.
(by mzacha via
married to Wolverine.
            My flexed imagination leads me to my second thought: would it be better to be married to a Vampire or to Wolverine? A Vampire may be trying to kill you on purpose on account of the delicious A positive pumping through your veins versus Wolverine would likely kill you accidentally when steel blades pop out of his appendages.
            My imagination is really getting distracted now with a third thought: why is it so exciting to think of the life or death struggle of being married to a mutant while being married to someone actually trying to kill you would be totally not cool?
            When I'm writing, the first thing that comes to mind is often a bit boring. For example, what's behind the door? (1) The mailman delivering the mail. So I try a second. (2) A mouse prince scaling the house to rescue a mouse princess. Usually by the third try I've got a much more interesting and surprising situation, though I sometimes gets too weird- like: (3) A mutant mustache hair with an evil plan to make the world hairy!

            How do you stretch your imagination muscles?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Night of the Cicadas

    Writing has been tough lately due to the constant car alarm hum of 17 year cicadas. I remember my best friend and I about 6 years old walking my Ohio neighborhood with a brown paper bag and filling it with shells. With that memory in mind, I have had my girls out exploring the cicadas.
Cicada lifecycle in
my backyard
       We found our first nymph emerging from the ground during the search for a bug to put in the bug playground. (If you aren't familiar with the "bug playground," it's a plastic dome with a little ramp for bugs to walk on. It's basically like having your own coliseum with really tiny lions.)
       "I don't want that bug, it's too ugly!" my 5yo cried.
       "Well, it's going to come out of its shell and be like a butterfly. Well, an ugly butterfly." That was the clincher - anything nearly like a butterfly is good enough for her. We put the nymph in our butterfly cage, but I'm afraid that didn't turn out well. To which my daughter in true Veruca fashion says "This one's dead. I want another one!!!"  We tried it again with similar results and thus abandoned the idea of emergence in captivity.
      About a week later, I saw one emerging from its shell on the shed. Then I saw one which had already emerged. Then I saw another and another. I realized I was surrounded and the feeling went from exhilaration to ewww. "Maybe we should go inside," I said to the girls. But with each step I heard the crunch of nymphs and shells under foot. 
       After giving the cicadas a few days to head into the trees, we returned to the yard. We started picking up shells, which is quite satisfying- like an Easter Egg hunt for brown eggs with creepy legs. We also found cicadas made lovely (in the way you would call Frankenstein lovely) pets. They are content to hang out on your hand especially if you make a loud whirring sound (there's always a sound coming from my kids).        
      We watched with amusement/horror as squirrels picked up cicadas and ate them like corn on the cob. They don't seem to have a taste for the heads and wings, because those are abandoned everywhere. The wings do have a delightful sparkle, and my 5yo amazed me by tossing a handful in the air creating the grossest appendage confetti ever.
       Not to be outdone, my 3yo picked up a cicada and said "I'm going to kiss him." To which I said "Huh, what was that?" Sure enough she put that cicada right up to her tiny lips and gave him a big smooch. Then she did it again.
     The cicada song is beginning to quiet and though I’ll miss shaking branches at the playground to make the cicadas chase the kids, I'm happy to write in peace. Which I'm going to do just as soon as I sweep all the carcasses off the porch...

Have you had any run ins with nature lately?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Donny Stapler the Dummy Maker (and Some Monkeys)

      I splurged on a new little friend: Donny Stapler the Dummy Maker!

Meet Donny Stapler!
      You know I get excited about little things and arguably a new stapler is a little thing.  But don't tell Donny Stapler he's little. No way! He's BIG! Yes he can stable up to 15 inches deep!!!

      "When would you need to staple 15 inches deep?" you ask. 
      "I have no clue!" I reply.

      But I like to staple 5 ½" deep A LOT (halfway through a 8 ½ x 11" piece of paper) which my old stapler couldn't do.  Donny Stapler makes mini picture book dummies with ease!

Attack preparations underway
(image by gfree via
      Now, I have no excuse for every manuscript to not be perfectly paced, except for perhaps my poor writing skills.  I have no excuse for not having exciting page turns, except for maybe my boring personality.   I have certainly no excuse for having too many words on a spread, except for possibly my laziness.
      And since lack of skill, being boring, and laziness are not terribly good excuses for a writer, I really must make wonderful picture books now. I suppose the only good excuse for a writer to use is "I was being attacked by monkeys throwing poop!," because it is well known monkeys throw poop, and it is reasonable to believe flying poop would be quite distracting or at the very least make typing difficult.

"How can I make a Mini Dummy, so I can be an amazing picture book writer?" you ask.
These monkeys are going with the, um,
direct method of gathering, um,
material to throw at writers.
(image by rjuliana via
Well, follow these careful instructions:
1.      Take 8 pieces of paper
2.      Fold them in half
3.      Staple in the middle (Donny Stapler accomplishes this with ease, but you can also try folding, bending, shoving and swearing with a regular stapler to accomplish a similar end.) Voila- you have a 32 page picture book!
4.      Write or paste or tape your text on each spread, starting on page 5. Read aloud, tweak, massage, paste again until the text flows so well, you could read it at the zoo...near the monkeys...while they do what they do.

P.S. Spending too long looking at monkey pictures is also not a reasonable excuse for not writing, though I am surely not the first writer to fall prey.  How could I resist this last image? Clearly this dog is getting ready to play the best game of fetch in the history of canines. "Wait, wait, you gonna throw poop for me to catch! That is the coolest arfing thing ever, man!"
(image by lilja via

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The How to Write Children's Books Nursery Rhyme

Writing children's books is really quite simple as long as you think about it like a 2-year-old and not like a person much older than a 2-year-old who knows about the complexities of developing voice and finding an agent.  Kind of like this:

One, Two, Slippers will do.

Three, Four, shut the door.

Five, Six, Grab writing sticks.

Seven, Eight, Caffeinate!

Nine, Ten, Write 'til The End.

See? Easy, Peasy, Nachos with cheesy.  Hmm, that makes me think I should add:

Eleven, Twelve, Reward yourself!  (Okay, that's a near rhyme. No need to call the police. It's totally allowed in nursery rhymes.)

Yum, nachos.
(image by Jean-Philippe Dufour via
Thirteen, Fourteen, Repeat routine.  Now grab your writing sticks and get back to work!
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