Monday, October 27, 2014

Sulky Spider's Spooky Webs

Susanna Hill is hosting her annual Halloweensie Contest. The rules are to write a Halloween story in 100 words or less including the words pumpkin, creak, and broomstick.

After having a good poem at 111 words, I cut it down to 109. Then I thesaurused (that's a word right?) a few more changes to get to 105. Then I stomped around and pulled my hair out and threw myself on the bed and cried, "Why? Why only 100 words?" I rubbed some fake spiderweb for inspiration and finally got to 100 exactly.

Sulky Spider's Spooky Webs
By Lauri Meyers

Sulky Spider planned a scheme
For making trick or treaters scream.

Spider silk began to spin
A Jack 'o Web with wicked grin.
"Pretty pumpkin," cowgirls said.
"Pretty?" Sulky hung her head.

"A webby ghost will do the trick!"
She spun a spooky ghoul up quick.
Pirates shouted, "Ghosts are neat!"
She gobbled up her web. "Defeat."
Spinnerets began to twitch.
"A warty-broomstick-riding-witch!"
A princess cooed, "That witch is sweet."
She stomped all eight offended feet.

"I need a buggy snack," she frowned. 
Sticky thread went round and round.
She didn't hear the stairway creak.

"A spiderweb!" they hollered, "Eek!"

I'd like to thank the Orb Spider (I think that's the right identification) who has been living in my shed for weeks for the inspiration. This spider moved her gigantic web every other day so we had to approach cautiously not knowing where it could be now. My husband suggested (gasp!) killing the spider. But this spider was working hard to deal with the bugs in our shed, and I classified her as "too big to squish" anyhow. Yeah, bigger than a quarter = too much spider guts. 

Make sure to check out all the other great entries for the Halloweensie contest too!

Update: Sulky Spider's Spooky Webs won THIRD PLACE, and I won a critique from Alayne Christian!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Summon Your Muse

The leaves are turning red, zombies are roaming my neighbor's yard, and I'm wearing my gray writing sweater every day, it must be...PiBoIdMo time!

Logo by Vin Vogel
This is my third Picture Book Idea Month, and I am primed and ready to fill another notebook with ideas inspired by fabulous daily guest posts. But I'm not sure my muse is ready. She's having a really hard time adjusting to back to school. Just because I have a tiny bit of free time, doesn't mean she's no longer needed.

Tara Lazar (whose sixth picture book just sold, btw!) posed a question about how a writer can summon their muse. I always revert back to my corporate training in flowcharting when it comes to questions like this.

Easy Peasy!
Enjoy spending the month of November with your muse, and the fresh smell of unicorn rainbow gas. 

UPDATE: I won a guest posting spot on PrePiBoIdMo from Tara. SQUEE! Read the final post here along with Summoning Your Muse with amazing illustration by Julie Rowan Zoch. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Subversive Picture Books (Part 4)- Scary Creatures

My last post on scary books covered my biggest fear: The Dark. But the thing that makes the dark so scary is the fear of the Scary Creatures which lurk in it. With the exception of some overlap in the Halloween books, each of these books features a completely different chill making critter.

I think I'll take this in order of scariest illustrations.

"The roof space is creeping and crawling with things, things that have horns and raggedy wings."

(In the Haunted House, by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh)

The first read of this is scary with two sets of feet walking through a house full of scary creatures. Knowing the twist at the end - a little girl drags daddy through this pretend Halloween house again - helps kids appreciate following reads.

""Oh," said Dave. "Why is it...trying to eat my burger?""

(Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?, by Julie Middleton and illustrated by Russell Ayto)
These dinosaurs are pretty cute. Well until the end. Their teeth are a bit sharp. And their proximity a little close. And their sneakiness is a bit scary.

"His eyes are orange. His tongue is black. Sharp purple prickles cover his back."

(The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Scheffler)
I dunno, the Gruffalo is kinda cute. But I have to admit I fell into a false sense of security that the Gruffalo wasn't real. Well, the little mouse pulled one over on me... BAM! Oh, no! A Gruffalo!

"Those spooky, empty pants and I were standing face to face!"

(What Was I Scared of, by Dr. Seuss)
Now, I don't know if green pants with nobody inside them are creatures, per se, but they certainly are something creepy. Super creepy. Because an apparition who can put on pants could do any number of scary things. And why green? To hide behind Brickel bushes and scare us? Yes! The ending is supposed to give us closure - aww, look they're friendly! - but all I keep thinking is why are those green pants talking out of their butts?! Scary. 

"A ghoul! A ghastly drooling graveyard ghoul..."

(By the Light of the Halloween Moon, by Caroline Stutson and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes)

Combination of scary creatures and a scary setting and a little girl about to lose a toe, collude to make this near-horrifying. The witch sports uber pointy nose, matching chin, gnarly teeth, and pop out of her ead wide eyeballs.  A pirate ghost looks real. (if you've ever seen a pirate ghost, you'll know what I mean.) A sprite has no cover of cuteness, he's just creepy.  Luckily this little girl is tough as nails and gives all these ghastly creatures a swift whack to save her toe.

" the goblins pulled baby out, leaving another all made of ice."

(Outside Over There, by Maurice Sendak)
Classic dystopian picture book by the master. The goblins hidden in their robes are scary, but they turn out to really just look like babies. Thank goodness for that relief, but it doesn't fix the problem of what my imagination had come up with. The scariest creature in the book is actually the baby made out of ice the goblins leave when they steal Ida's baby sister.

"If a big, quick, strong, scary, hairy, dirty wants it, then cheese belongs to her."

(Cheese Belongs to You! By Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz)
I learned a lot about rat law in this book, which unfortunately is kinda close to human rules. The rats in this book get progressively scarier, culminating in a giant scary rat brawl. I always find one critter may be not too scary or even kind of cute, but a whole mess of critters always creeps me out.

"His horns were bright red and his cape midnight black, and his pencilly fingers tapped "clickety-clack.""

(The Monster Who Did My Math, by Danny Schnitzlein, illustrated by Bill Mayer)
Totally cute idea of a monster who does your math, but makes you look like a fool when everyone finds out you haven't learned anything. Cute except the illustrations are incredibly horrifying. Like scary clown jumping out of a barrel of diseased monkeys in a haunted house horrifying.

I'm sure you've read some picture books with SCARY creatures, so please share them in the comments.  I have to say it's surprising just how scary some of these creatures can get!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Subversive and Mysterious

I told you a few posts ago about the subversive story I had been noodling, but I left out an important detail:


For some unknown reason I hadn't typed it up yet. Still I carried its paper-clipped pages and post it notes in my purse. And hence, I lost it.

"Argh!!! I can't eat this.
This story isn't even
(Angry Bear by Malowanki via
I'm confident I'll find it though.

Unless a bear took it. (which might have happened, because the last place I recall having it was at the campsite.)

Most of it is more or less in my head anyway.

It's just hanging out with random song lyrics from the 80s and nursery rhyme warnings of epidemics. It's in good hands. Sort of.

And besides it adds a bit of intrigue that this manuscript is going to put up a fight!

Unless of course it is so grim and disturbing it is just not meant to be found. Mwa-ha-ha!

Do let this cautionary tale serve as today's reminder to safeguard your manuscripts.
Type them up.
Back them up.
Save them to a thumb drive.
Print them in triplicate.
I don't think tattooing them in your armpits is going too far.

Or just keep them on post-it notes in your pocket. I'm sure it will be super safe.

Now, just how did that story start...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Subversive Picture Books (Part 3): Scared of the Dark

I started studying subversive books way back in September with the plan to cover lack of parental supervision, nudity, and scariness. I thought scary would be easy. But then over the course of the last few weeks, my living room turned into a Booknado!

I considered Lion vs. Rabbit (Alex Latimer) because bullying is scary and Extra Yarn (Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen) because an archduke breaking into your house is scary. Vampire Baby (Kelly Bennett, Paul Meisel) seemed like a sure thing, but it's just too darn cute.

I interviewed my 4yo over juice boxes.
"Is Tiger in My Soup* scary?" 
"I give it one dot of scary."
Geesh. Even my kid has her own rating scale for scariness and tigers roaring apparently rate low.
(*Kashmira Sheth, Jeffrey Ebbeler)

I entered a state of I-don't-know-what's-scary paralysis!!

So I decided to focus on what scares me the most:
1. The Dark
2. Scary Creatures
3. Mortal Danger
4. Real Life

Making it dark is an immediate way to add a sense of fear to a picture book, so lets face that fear first!

"As soon as the room was dark, I heard him creeping toward me."

Nighttime rooms are dark, closets in nighttime rooms are even darker, and worries of what might lurk in the closet are the darkest. When a brave little boy confronts the nightmare in his closet, he has to think fast when he makes the monster cry.  Tucking the nightmare in his own bed seems to be a good way to keep other nightmares away. 

"Runaway piglets are lost in the gloom."

(Ten Moonstruck Piglets, by Lindsay Lee Johnson, illustrated by Carll Cneut)
As a parent, imagining my piglets sneaking out to explore the moonl
ight really freaks me out. But the piglets don't seem to realize the danger they are in until clouds cover the moonlight and darkness surrounds them. Once owls hoot and foxes prowl the little piglets howl for mama.

""It's dark," he said. "I think I might be lost," he said.""

(Too Noisy, by Malachy Doyle and Ed Vere)
Sam Bungle heads into the woods to escape his too noisy family and enjoy some quiet, serene nature. Which is lovely until it gets dark. Then creep crawly things and glowing eyes and slithery things are all he can find in the deep dark woods. Luckily his too noisy family is out looking for him.

"Lazslo was afraid of the dark."
(The Dark, by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen)

Lazslo hopes the dark won't come into his room. But he has to face the dark to get a critical weapon in dark-prevention: a lightbulb. In this book the dark is threatening and real and capable of speech. Good for kids with a fear of the dark, though it mostly just scared me and reminded me to always have a healthy stock of lightbulbs.  

"That tiger looks ferocious, Felix thought."
(Dark Night, by Dorothee De Monfried)

Felix's walk through the dark goes from bad to worse to oh crap when he sees a wolf...who is scared off by a tiger...who is scared off by a crocodile! A helpful bunny shows Felix how to become scary to safely make it home. 

I have to admit, these books always fill with relief - the dark isn't that scary! But once I close the books and kiss little foreheads and quietly close the door except for a crack, I still run up the dark steps as fast as I can and jump into bed to avoid the outstretched arms of the monsters under my bed. 

Do you have other recommendations for books about the oh so scary DARK? Please let me know in the comments!
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