Saturday, May 26, 2012


Yesterday I received my copy of Writer's Digest. This month's poetry corner was on Quaterns: 4 quatrains, eight syllables each line with a refrain.  I skimmed the article briefly before heading out to the mall to buy a birthday present for my mother and was immediately hit with three lines that would make some Quaterns.  In the car I jotted down this one from the first line that struck me:

I went out running this morning

I went out running this morning.
The fresh air moved my feet along
the black, buckled asphalt pavement
in the early morning sunlight.

Other runners greeted me as
I went out running this morning
with the promise of summer's kiss
lingering on my sweaty face.

I could hear the sparrows singing,
saw puppies pull their masters as
I went out running this morning
at the end of the spring season.

My spirt felt renewed, refreshed
as the squirrels and bunnies played
on manicured suburban lawns.
I went out running this morning.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Very Own Garden

When my boys were little, we read Lobel's stories about Frog & Toad all the time.  The one they loved the most was when Toad tried to grow a gardent from the seeds Frog gave him.  Toad yelled at them continually to start growing until Frog came along and determined they were too scared to grow.  Toad then was worried the seeds would be too scared to grow if he left them alone, so he read to them, sang to them and stayed up all night until he finally fell asleep.  At last the seeds poked up out of the ground and there was much happiness on Toad's part.

Many years ago, a folk singer wrote a song about the story and I used to sing it to the kids.  (I know it was many years ago because my oldest just graduated from college last week... so it had to have been at least 20+ years ago.)

Yesterday, with the sun shining and summer's scent on the breeze, I figured it was time for me to once again plant my very own garden.  I visited the local community farm and picked up a couple of varieties of tomatos, tomatillos, lettuce, broccoli, sugar peas and peppers.  I picked up some herbs to add to the herb garden and planted them in fresh soil all while singing the story of Toad's garden.

This morning, I looked out on the gray New England morning that was such a stark contrast to yesterday's bright sun and noticed that the little broccoli seedlings I was so worried about seemed to nestle in and stand up a little straighter.  I could also see my tomatoes and tomatillos reaching up, willing themselves to grow and the peppers saying, "Not so fast, bubb... I can do this too!"  In that moment, I knew there was also a story growing in that garden.

I don't know what it is yet, like the little seedlings, it needs a chance to wiggle its roots around in the fresh earth and reach up towards the sun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The mysterious cabal of "they" always say writers have to have goals.  Sometimes "they" get motivational speaker level specific about wishes are actions that aren't acted upon and to make actionable wishes or "they" say put the big rocks in the bucket first then fill in from there and so on.

I tend to feel, "If I wanted a Tony Robbins lecture, I'd watch an infomercial...."

It's not that I don't understand the value of goals, I do.  It's just they're sort of like outlines: a good idea for some and an attack by the Black Hand on Franz Ferdinand for others; losing your nerve until a lucky shot creates an opportunity to maybe (hopefully) nail it and... oops, did I really mean to start WWI over this?

For the past 3 years, I've gone into National Novel Writer's Month with a lot excitement and dread.  This summer, my goal is to take my 2010 novel idea and turn it into something legible.  This is a goal.  While I'm sure for some this is not enough.  I envision "they" would be pounding their fist and demanding I break this down into actionable steps or apply habits of success to create a sellable product.

Me, I'm OK with "them" working themselves into a lather about foreign subjects while I dance around my home office singing Katy Perry at the top of my lungs or envisioning the music video I would make to Imagine Dragons' song "Top of the World."

Thanks to National Novel Writer's Month, I have achieved step one: write the damn thing.

I have achieved step two: break the damn thing into 3 acts.  This is my problem (and I must emphasize it really is my problem).  I start strong with a general idea.  The opening is always strong and then I get lost and then I feel like I have to stretch and end it.  When I'm done, I feel great about hitting 50k words and a complete (if pretty flawed) story and then wonder what to do next.  Now that I have figured out the three acts, I can take that weak middle and the "am I at 50k yet?" ending and turn them into something that can be read without too much pain.

Part of that step included some background on the society.  I have already done all the character background: how would I set up a Facebook page for my character?  What photos would I put up?  If my character was in high school, where would the character sit in the lunchroom?  The usual.  I don't always think through the society beyond the cafeteria.  That came out as I figured out my three acts.

While these are all the sorts of things "they" get all excited, these steps are more of a treasure map without the path drawn on it yet for me.  I can see the map and the markers, now I have to connect the dots to where X marks the spot.

It's a stretch for me as I'm so used to short pieces.  I used to make a living telling my story in 800 words or less.  Stretching the story to 50,000 words, well, now that's a challenge and, dare I say it, a goal.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Higgelty Piggelty Pop, goodbye Maurice

I grew up with some rather conventional children's books.  Essentially, if it wasn't a standard Golden book, it was either something crazy from my older siblings (yes Spider, it's all YOUR fault for giving me Dr. Suess books for Christmas) or hand me downs.  Discovering Maurice Sendak on my own opened up a whole new world of imagination for me.

It's no surprise that my children, nieces, nephews and other little ones received lots of Sendak (and others) from me.  One of my sons decided he was going to learn German at an early age after I read him "Wild Things" in German.  I'm not surprised to see inspiration from those books I read the boys long ago in another son's artwork and secretly suspect that he will eventually find himself immersed in the world of children's literature and art.  (When you have mentor like Tony DiTerlizzi, how can you not?)

Recently I introduced "Pierre" to a room of first graders who were studying folk tales.  It fit the lesson in when we discussed what made a folk tale, the kids listed talking animals and a moral lesson.  I absentmindedly replied, "There once was a boy named Pierre, who only could say, 'I don't care.' So read his story my friend and, you will find in the end, a suitable moral lies there."  The kids all looked at me and I asked, "Have none of you heard of Pierre?"  They all said no.  Off to the internet to find Carole King singing the nutshell library and, as a reward for good behavior, I showed them the video of "Pierre."

The kids were so enchanted, the asked to watch it again.... and again.  I instructed all of them to look for the Nutshell Library the next time they were in a bookstore.

I am known for my reciting of "Where the Wild Things Are."  I make the kids put on and zip up their invisible wolf suits, we have a wild rumpus and I point out how the illustrations grow and grow like the jungle in Max's room and shrink as he returns to his world.  I use it as a lesson that, no matter how big our imaginations grow, we need to write within constrained spaces.  The magic comes from transporting your reader to your wide open imagination.  It's a lesson that older kids love and gets younger kids thinking.

But right now, I'm feeling the need to dig out my copy of "Higgelty Piggelty Pop or There Must Be More To Life."  A book Sendak wrote to deal with his grief in losing his beloved dog, Jenny.  I hope that he is now happily playing with her and feeding her salami.  I need a way to deal with my broken heart in losing a man who changed my life.

Higgelty piggelty Pop, the dog has eaten the mop.  The pig's in a hurry, the cat's in a flurry. Higgelty piggelty pop.