Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Greatest Gatsby

Dear Director Luhrmann and Author Fitzgerald,

Thank you for crafting both a novel and a movie with masterful dialogue. I’ve used many of your words in the following apology, because your words are better than mine. Clearly.

Many thanks,

Shelley T., author of the forthcoming novel The Graham Cracker Plot.


To: Baz Luhrmann, The Great Director

Dear Baz,

There was a green light flashing in the mist. It represented hope – my hope. Weeks ago, I’d hoped your interpretation of The Great Gatsby would stink and sink. I couldn’t fathom an American classic being twisted into a 3D rap music video. I couldn’t stand the thought of our Jay Gatsby – yes, he’s one of us, one of the dreamers and believers – being played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s working so hard for his Lifetime Achievement Award.

I was wrong, a silly little fool. That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, Baz, a beautiful little fool. But it takes two to make an accident like this: me with my prejudgment and you with the black cloud of Moulin Rouge.

Cheers, Leo. Cheers.

Cheers, Leo. Cheers.

Baz, your Gatsby was a triumph. There’s something very sensuous about it – overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into my hands right there in the theater, right next to the popcorn.

And so I apologize to you, Baz. (And to Leo, who’ll get that lifetime award if he ever looks older than 30.) Understand, Baz, that sometimes I’m a careless person, smashing up things and creatures and then retreating back.

Gatsby lovers, believe in Baz’s green light. It represents his hope and dream to make a better Gatsby, to, in fact, make the Greatest Gatsby.

Realized dreams are so rare, yet we chase them. Baz understands dreams elude us, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Many apologies,

Shelley T., author of the forthcoming novel The Graham Cracker Plot


Kids are …

I’m treating myself this Memorial Day weekend with time off. I leave you with this wonderful quote from Beth Woolsey, a humorist who blogs at Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids.  The Huffington Post recently published Woolsey’s “20 Things Every Parent Should Hear.” Woolsey’s list includes these words of wisdom.

Kids are difficult, gross, confusing and awesome. So are you.

Yes, parents should hear it.

So should kid lit writers.

Bird, bird, bird – bird is a (naughty) word

Who’s the frolicking ray of sunshine lying to the world about birds? Birds so lovely. Birds so worth watching at dawn. In the woods. With binoculars.

Who? I’ll tell you who.


Birds glide on the breath of God

Feathers sleek as angels’ wings

For their eyes have seen heaven

Childrens writers!

Chirp chirp. Are you my mother, little kittie?

Chirp chirp. Are you my mother, little doggie?

Baby bird! Baby Bird! I was getting worms for you to eat. I am your mommy, and you are my baby forever, Baby Bird!


They paint … A charming red barn tucked into a forest of fall colors, birds flocking to a warmer place, needing no compass, for they glide on the breath of God.


Robins mean planting. Planting means corn and soy and beans! Those farming rascals smile, don’t they, when folks yammer away about spring robin sightings.

Looked out my kitchen window and just about spit my coffee when I saw a robin. I thought it was a Twix wrapper. Hmmm. Maybe it was a Twix wrapper.

I saw a robin sitting in the snow by my pre-lit Santa you know I got it half price from Walmart on Black Friday but anyhoo it was a robin so it’s time to pack up the Christmas lights and soon enough we’ll be making Easter pies then going to graduation parties and goodness time sure flies.

Wouldn’t you know? Saw a robin this morning, and it’s only May. God bless Minnesota.

One of these delightful robin creatures appeared yesterday, and she was not gliding on God’s breath. I was in the garage when a robin shot from a bomb squad and rocketed toward my head. I shrieked and ducked and fumbled for my keys and narrowly escaped into my car.

As I sat shaking in the driver’s seat, I noticed bird poop smeared across my side and front windows.  Fresh, too. I knew I had a few minutes to inspect before the robin brought reinforcements.

Here’s what I found.




More proof!

A perfectly constructed nest built into the garage door opener, which had plenty of wires for her to twist into support beams for the sturdy nest. I thought Hah! See how well your babies sleep when my fella leaves for work at five in the morning.

Since there were no eggs, we took it down, which is to say he took it down and tossed it in the garbage.

Each warm day brings more of them. Beady eyes, orange breasts, beaks like knives; chirp, chirp chirping like they’re introducing themselves while they’re really scoping our garages to build nests of death. I’ve seen Alfred Hitchcock, and I know the pain and fear birds can inflict after they come to a charming small town, innocently gliding on the breath of God.

Little bastards.

A writing career

Ten random things about a writing career:

  1. There are deadlines for your projects but no deadlines for the payments.
  2. Improper laptop use causes back problems and severe headaches.
  3. There are goodies in the pantry. All kinds of goodies, available 24/7.
  4. The more time you have to write, the slower the writing.
  5. When not in school, your child constantly asks questions like, “What happens if a ship overturns and you get in a lifeboat and then the lifeboat overturns?” Can you really say, “Then you drown, honey.”
  6. People think you write because writing comes easy to you. It does not.
  7. When you blog, you find you’re almost always writing in second person. Why?
  8. You feel guilty when you write only 500 words. This blog post is already more than 100 words.
  9. All the writers you know are mentors. They all have something to teach you.
  10. Some of your best draft readers aren’t writers, especially in kids lit. If my daughter doesn’t laugh, my audience won’t laugh.

Happy 100!

Cotton candy: The only thing I didn't eat this weekend.

Cotton candy: The only thing I didn’t eat this weekend.

When I started this blog, I promised myself a reward when I hit 100 posts. That happened Monday.

I settled on my reward during last week’s countdown. On Monday, May 20, I would have a decadent dessert. Something involving the words “triple chocolate.”

Then I started thinking about my weekend. Oreos, donut holes, caramel corn, caramel rolls and mini cupcakes. Sunday night, I fell into one of those sugar-overload comas. It’s amazing I still have teeth.

So, today, I celebrated with the words “light and refreshing.” A salad.

Congratulations to me.

Books worth another look

After I posted about classic lit and plot amnesia, I came across this list from Publishers Weekly, “10 Classic Books You Read in High School You Should Reread.”  Writer Kevin Smokler picked the ten classics “where I found that useful thing I missed the first time around.”

That’s why I’m re-reading Catcher in the Rye. What would I take from it now? What can I learn from it as a writer? And the top reason: I can’t remember the plot.

Here begins Smokler’s list.

Smokler's number one. And he means read it, not go to the 3D disaster.

Smokler’s number one. And he means read it, not go to the 3D disaster.

Number One. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Fast cars, huge houses, a raised martini glass and a love that cannot be. No wonder F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third novel gets credit for both naming and embodying the most glamorous era of the 20th century. I had forgotten that Nick Carroway tells the story of Gatsby and Daisy in flashblack, a eulogy to a romance and an era that are gone. The novel’s unforgettable closing passages are as much about acceptance as longing, as much about the pain of age than forbidden desire and American dreams.

The full article is here.

Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?

Students yesterday field tripped to the Twins stadium and enjoyed America’s favorite pastime. They laughed, they cheered, they used sunscreen for the first time since September.

Since I’m not a sports fan, I spent my time people watching and stadium inspecting.

I guess this is where I’m supposed to complain about billionaire owners charging $4.50 for water or $6 for mini-donuts. The water situation is extortion, but you can’t put a price tag on mini-donuts.


Make it a perfect game, US Bank!

Or maybe I should point out how fans are held hostage by marketing and money. But everyone already knows corporate logos are stadium wallpaper; and that Ronald McDonald himself strolls past the U.S Bank Home Run Porch, waving at fans looking for the Budweiser Roof Deck.

Old news.

But, please, let’s consider one boundary. I hate to deliver a bloated patriotism lecture styled after Limbaugh or O’Reilly, because nobody owns patriotism, although corporations are bidding for it.

Yesterday’s pre-game tradition began with fans standing, taking off their hats, and singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” This rendition was brought to you by Super America. Not as in, our great country, but the gas station.

The announcer actually said it. Today’s national anthem is brought to you by Super America. He didn’t even gag.

While a digital version of the U.S. flag spanned the lower screen, the Super America logo popped up next to it, so gallantly streaming.


Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

What’s left to sell?

I like writing dialogue, so I spent two innings imagining the chumps brainstorming a marketing plan for client Super America.

I’ve got it! We’ll sponsor the national anthem and mix company’s logo with the flag!

Umm … the American flag?

Hello, knucklehead! You think we’d mix the logo with the Venezuelan flag?

I’m just not sure about this, Jerry. Seems a little disrespectful.

It’s profound. Nothing’s more patriotic than baseball, the flag, the national anthem, and our client’s name. I can just hear it. America the Beautiful and client Super America. Because America is beautiful, and our gas station is super. Super America!

Umm … the national anthem is the Star Spangled Banner.

You sure?

I googled it.

Crap! It doesn’t even have the word America in the title. Can we get that changed?

And so we have a gas station writing a check for the anthem and the flag. Super America. America is super. Come buy our gas.

I’ll be filling up at Kwik Trip. They sell hot dogs, but not at the stadium.

Not yet.