Sunday, January 23, 2011


Here's a riddle I wrote a long time ago.  It is wanting, but still kind of fun:

Only one man I know
Has no skeleton at all
And he can’t really stand on his own

He is six and a half
Maybe seven feet tall
And he’s always been truly full-grown

He’s got no room for skin
Wears a hat on his head
And he’s not known for changing his clothes

He’s not bronze, he’s not brass
He’s not living or dead...
So then who is this man?  Who knows?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Aren’t You a Rocket Scientist?

Remember your dream of becoming an astronaut, entertainer, pro basketball player, archaeologist…(fill in the blank)?  What became of the time when those things were within our reach?  Did we get old, fat, lazy, kicked to the curb too many times?  Did “reality” finally set in and we realized we weren’t tall enough, talented enough, smart enough…?  Did too many people say, “Really?  You?”  When did we lose our passion for pursuing our dreams?  Were we unable to do the work or take the needed risks to attain them?  Couldn’t they at least have changed a little bit?  Maybe you’re not tall enough for basketball, but what about baseball?  I used to ponder the sea of faces in my classroom and wonder what percentage would actually accomplish what they believed they could.  If I spend 40 of my waking hours working, I have to face the question at some point about whether I am really doing what I want to do.  For some reason, I can’t grasp the concept that’s becoming more evident; spending the majority of my life doing something that doesn’t seem like the right fit for me.  If I’m one of the minority who is actually still chasing my dream, does that make me naive?  Am I immature, unrealistic, and too optimistic for my own good?  My stats show that some of you are actually reading this blog (surprise and thanks!), but I’d really like to hear comments, especially on this one.  What, if anything, are you doing to pursue your dreams?  Do you still have them?  What are your obstacles?   If you’re in a career that’s making you miserable, have you lost hope?  Is there something you can do to turn it around or are you happy working the mundane 8-5, punching in and out, waiting for your shift to be over until you are retired or older?  Are you leaving a legacy for your children that says, “Mom/dad worked hard, but is now doing exactly what she/he wants to do”?  While my dreams have remained the same for some time, I’m finally putting in the work and taking the risks that I’m hoping will lead to the accomplishments I’m striving for.  This isn’t to say that I’m unhappy, but I believe that, if I try, I could be doing exactly what I want to do.  How about you?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I have a great idea!
Now to find the stuff I’ll need;
A purple feather boa,
A shiny golden bead,

A whisker from a kitten,
An orange cut in half,
Some black and white confetti,
A hair from a giraffe,

A little bamboo basket,
A half a cup of flour,
Some dandelion seedlings,
A maid paid by the hour,

An ounce of molten lava,
A stack of sturdy bricks,
A dozen chocolate donuts,
A poodle doing tricks

I’ve got it all together,
All gathered, hired, and caught.
It’s too bad my idea
Is the one thing I forgot!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing, Commercialism, and the Genius of Dirty Chips

When the toilet paper was at the end of the roll, I had no choice but to go to the store for two or three items I couldn’t do without.  If you’ve been in my kitchen, you know I’m not the type to fill it with sugary, salty, or otherwise unhealthy foods.  Even on hour-long trips to the store, I don’t impulse shop and I’m almost never swayed by commercialism.  Today, I admit, was an exception.  A bag, strategically placed at the end of the bread aisle, read “Dirty Potato Chips.”  My first thought was, “Ew…who wants to eat dirty chips?”  It conjured up memories of eating at a restaurant called Chuck-a-Rama where, no matter how good the food was, I couldn’t help but think of that scene in Stand By Me (the one with the castor oil) and it made me gag.  The second time I passed them, I giggled at the thought of a couple of potato farmers sitting around in their boxers scratching their heads and justifying the name “Dirty” because, after all, potatoes come from the ground, right?  Believe it or not, standing in the grocery line, I couldn’t get the dirty, rotten, salt magnets out of my head.  The mere brand name gave me enough reason to feel that I had to try them.  In their defense, they were really quite tasty and I ate more than I should have.  If you are what you eat, I guess that makes me a couch potato. My point being (since it all comes back to writing), that it is sometimes the simplest and most ridiculous title that will compel a reader to pick up a book.  I’m hoping that rings true for “Never Poke a Porcupine,” my next attempt at a children’s picture book.  On that note, I’d better get back to writing it and to the bag of Jalapeno Heat Dirty Potato Chips screaming my name.

One Too Many by Gianna Marino

One Too Many is a seek-and-find almost wordless counting book that follows one flea and adds different types of farm animals in sequence to twelve.  Each page presents a new number and new creatures with the flea subtly depicting which animal has been added by hopping to that species last on that page.  The creatures are almost entirely black, white, and gray, and the story culminates with a skunk who sneaks up to the trough where the animals are drinking, sprays its scent, and stinks the others out.

If I could nominate a Caldecott winner for 2011, it would, without a doubt, be this book.  The animals are extremely lifelike, not only in illustration, but in character as well.  Marino includes an activity page in the back that tells how many of each animal and gives the reader additional things to look for, like the pig whose ear is always being chewed.  The animals are convincing, playful, and unpredictable, which gives young children a chance to use their narrative skills to tell what’s happening in each picture.  My son was just as excited about counting where the flea was bouncing as he was to count the animals.  He was enraptured by the bats and made up a game that the mice were probably playing.  We really enjoyed this book.

The Thingamabob - Il Sung Na

This is another fantastic story time read-aloud by Il Sung Na. An elephant finds an umbrella and tries to discover its use. He explores some creative and humorous ideas until it rains and he’s finally successful.

The elephant in the story is loveable and childlike and the humor is perfectly appropriate for very young children. The preschoolers in my story time group laughed out loud when he tried, unsuccessfully to hide behind the umbrella. The foreshadowing gives them a chance to guess what’s coming on the last page. The story is cute, concise, and shows how much fun imagination can be. What really brings it to life, though, are the illustrations with their soft, subtle colors and beautiful patterns that are unique to Na. As with his debut picture book, A Book of Sleep, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the beautiful animal characters, which are well-tailored to the story. I’m already anticipating Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit, which comes out this spring.


Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go to an amazing writers' conference.  Attendees had the option of getting a manuscript critique, so I jumped all over that.  An editor and agent read a poem of mine aloud, leaving it anonymous, and then gave very blunt and descriptive evaluations of it in front of about thirty other people.  Years ago, I was a member of a critique group, so I know how the process works.  It's a sandwich.  If you can find anything nice to say about the piece, say it first.  Then add all of the constructive criticism you can.  Lastly, say something else to encourage the writer, lest they commit literary suicide and stop writing. 

Both editor and agent were extremely flattering about my work in the first layer.  Then, somewhere during the "meat" of my critique, the editor said, "It doesn't have a plot.  It just goes from one d*&# thing to the next."  Somehow, between the nervous anxiety I was experiencing and the good old-fashioned flippant honesty she gave, I started to see the whole thing in cartoons and I laughed.  It wasn't a big, belly laugh, but it was loud enough that the ladies sitting beside me and in front of me couldn't help but take notice.

I'm sure that wouldn't have been a problem if the other writers knew it was my work she was critiquing.  Instead, it made me look pretty ridiculous and insensitive.  It got me thinking about how often I make snap judgements about things and don't get the full picture first.

I don't know if there's really a point to this blog, but it's not a manuscript, so I guess it doesn't really need a plot.roll