Monthly Archives: March 2013

Anything is possible

As we head into Easter weekend, I’m reminded of why it’s important to log kid moments and keep reading them. Adults forget what it’s like to be a kid. When you write children’s books, you can’t forget being a kid. It’s basically the job description.

Those delightful kid moments keep me laughing when I’m ready to burn my second draft. Mostly, those tidbits help me develop voice, grow characters, and build a plot.

This story comes to me second hand. (Does this particular child live with me? It’s possible.)

Child: Dad, do you think it’s possible for a huge rabbit to carry eggs all over town and hide them in houses? And use big paws to put candy in the eggs?

Dad: Hmmm … I don’t know. What do you think?

Child: OF COURSE IT’S POSSIBLE!!!!

Young children. Trick questions. They go together like boogers and fart jokes.

Cat hats, yellow hats and bonnets

George the Curious

George the Curious

It’s “Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character Day” at the local elementary school. You can’t find Halloween costumes in the stores. Required: imagination and planning. (For parents who first learned about the event last night, you have my sympathy.)

As for the favorite characters, my money’s on …

  • Lots of Cats in the Hats.
  • Captain Underpants. Or, in the case of school dress policies, Captain Long Johns.
  • Arthur and his rodent friends/family
  • Curious George and maybe a yellow hat or two. (The man with the yellow hat does have a name. It’s Ted. Consider yourself ready for Friday night Trivia. You’re welcome.)
  • Madeline
  • Peter Pan
  • An assortment of princesses, mostly Rapunzel. What girl doesn’t want hair that serves as a magical healer and an elevator?
  • Sorry Junie B., Judy M. and Ramona Q., but you look like regular kids. No goofy hats. No fur. No ball gowns. You might be fun to read, but you’re no fun to wear.
  • Two hundred or so Harry Potter characters, including my daughter’s “Hermione.” My little witch will be carrying a Hermione wand direct from Hogwarts’ Florida campus. She’ll be wearing my black robe, although she hasn’t yet discovered the teddy bear embroidered on the shoulder.  When she sees it, she’ll protest the robe’s authenticity, and I’ll be telling her if she’s going for authentic, just give that wand a try!

If I could celebrate “Dress Like Your Favorite Character Day,” I’d be Laura Ingalls. I’d leave my little house on the prairie wearing a calico dress and bonnet. I’d do math problems on a slate, ask permission to use the outhouse, and bring salt pork for the classroom snack.

Enchant that, Hermione.

Got five cents?

Kids are fascinating, which is why I like to write for them. As they explore the world and begin to interact with it, we get to watch an evolution.

My daughter is learning she can be involved in changing the world. I’m taking notes. It’s good material.

Inspired by the presidential election, she lobbied her friends to vote Obama. She wore a blazer to school because it made her look presidential. (Note: Obama lost her school’s mock election, but she worked it hard.)

Now she has a new cause. I’d like to say she’s fighting for the homeless or concerned about fracking. It’s not that noble. Appalled by the cost of American Girl dolls ($100), she’s started a petition asking the company to lower the price to $25.

And what determination. She’s after 1,000 signatures. (Doesn’t this sound like something Ramona Quimby or Junie B. Jones would do?)

I thought about explaining the concepts of supply and demand and corporate greed. But that’s not learning, that’s lecturing. As a writer, I know kids can’t stand a lecture. They’ll sniff out attempts to turn a story into a “lesson.” And if they smell it, goodbye book.

So, my daughter grasps the concept of petitioning and advocacy. She’s still a little fuzzy about how it works.

But she understands capitalism. Here’s the deal: if you want to sign her petition, you have to pay her five cents. That’s $50 if she gets 1,000 signatures. If the American Girl Doll company lowers the price from $100 to $25, she could buy two dolls.

She’s really, really good at math.

The dream of ten

One hippo on the phone ...

One hippo on the phone …

I don’t have the skill needed for writing a picture book, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. Here are ten picture books I wish I’d written.

Criteria: Can’t include friends or acquaintances and no obvious classics just to sound writerly.

In no particular order …

  1. Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton (or Barnyard Dance – who could possibly choose?)
  2. The Best Pet of All by David LaRochelle
  3. Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems
  4. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
  5. Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  6. The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
  7. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  8. The Bear Snores On by  Karma Wilson
  9. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
  10. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

The best day of all

David LaRochelle is coming! David LaRochelle is coming! On Monday, he’ll be at my daughter’s school, River Crest Elementary.

He’s the author of many books, of course, but our favorite is The Best Pet of All. Other titles: 1 + 1 = 5, A Christmas Gift, and The Evening King. He’s doing kids programs all day, but it looks like parents can crash the evening session. At least I’m going to.

There’s no information on the River Crest web site, but River Crest parents should have received an email announcement.

Three shades of gray

Dear auto industry,

Why are you taking color from the world?

When writers say “color,” we mean words and phrases that add energy to writing. This letter isn’t about that kind of color.

Medium gray.

Medium gray.

I recently went to your auto show as part of my car-buying journey. Buyers can’t drive vehicles at the show, but you can do the important stuff. You can sit in the car and comfort test the seats with a quick nap. You can play with the gadgets. You can watch the sales guy steam when the two-year-old sticks his lollipop on the leather interior.

Most importantly, you can gaze at the sea of color. You can close your eyes and think about what color would best reflect you during errand runs for the next 10 or 15 years.

Except you couldn’t.

Welcome to the 2013 vehicle color palette: white, pearl white, tan, light gray, medium gray, platinum gray, shimmering black, and midnight black.

Every carmaker offered at least one actual color. A hideous color, such as Alien Green. No, I didn’t add “alien” to emphasize the ugliness of the green. Alien Green is the actual color and the color’s actual name.

Midnight black.

Midnight black.

Tornado Red. Not Tomato Red, which might be ugly but at least tomato describes a shade of red. So what is Tornado Red? Hideous. But not as hideous as Tangerine Orange Pearl, which sounds like a V8 fruit juice.

Then there was Toffee Mocha Brown. Redundant, yes, but it tells the buyer this car is really, really brown. Like toffee. Like mocha.

The only real options available for today’s new car buyers: white, pearl white, tan, light gray, medium gray, platinum gray, shimmering black, and midnight black.

One brochure had a blue car on the cover.

Me: So I could get this car in blue? Temptress Blue Metallic?

Salesman: Ma’am, that’s Tempest Blue Metallic.

Pearl white.

Pearl white.

Me: Isn’t that what I said? You must need your hearing checked. Anyway, could I get that color?

Salesman scratches his chin. I’m pretty sure blue is only available in models with a diesel engine.

Me: So the 2013 semi trucks are Temptress Blue? That must be fun to drive into Billy Bob’s Truck Stop.

Salesman: Let me make a few calls.

A few calls later …

Salesman: Apparently this car is offered in blue in European markets. I had my manager check our computers and there isn’t one single blue model in the five-state region.

Me: Why do Europeans get all the color?

Salesman: Well, if it’s color you want, let me show you the Tornado Red.

Auto industry, please take note: if writers used your palette of non-color in our books, we’d all be self-published. And that’s almost as bad as a bailout.

Sincerely,

The new owner of a platinum gray car.

Tweet this: less is more and more is better

After hours of pondering tweet options, this is all I got: I have a blue lamp.

After hours of pondering tweet options, this is all I got: I have a blue lamp.

The Twitter research continues.

Leo Widrich, an interesting guy who blogs here, is a Twitter expert because he uses words like metrics and Twittercounter and retweeting. And he knows his subject.

In this particular post, Leo writes about a man’s goal to double his Twitter audience. Widrich has some ideas, and you can hit the blog to read them.

I call special attention to one point. Widrich says the solution, obviously, is to tweet more. But he advises people to spend no more than one hour a day tweeting. Instead of spending hours a day on Twitter, he says, just be more focused and strategic. Limit  yourself one hour to write tweets, I guess, because most people have other things to do, like read tweets.

Then he said some other things.

But whatever. One hour a day instead of hours a day.

Wow. My strategy had been to block out the whole morning. I’d tweet the best sales from grocery store ads to my 35 followers. This would endear me to them, I thought, and they would cast my tweets into cyberspace. Then my audience would grow and so would my book sales. I’d have my very own metric!

I’m lucky Leo saved me from acting like a tweet-geek with obsessive attempts to build an audience. I’m sticking with Leo and the cool kids and their one-hour rule. Nobody’s gonna be calling me a social media twitwit. Or nitwit, if you’re old school.

Man, I hope nobody retweets that.