Friday, May 25, 2012


I have no idea how it started.
I guess I’ve just always had this thing about imitating voices. Trust me, it is NOT a gift. It’s a DISEASE. As in, if I’m talking on the phone with my aunt from New Jersey, I’ll sound like I’m fresh from Freehold within 5 minutes. 
Let us not even discuss my Lebanese, Brazilian, or southern friends.
Anyway, many moons ago, I was reading a Disney book to my then 2-year-old, when the old “voice” issue kicks in. Big time. And, well, I start getting my Goofy on like nobody’s business.
Of course, the 2-year-old LOVES it. In fact, she’s absolutely delighted! And so am I…
until the next day when we’re having a little breakfast chitchat.
“Talk like Goofy, Mama,” says child.
And did I?
Of course I did.
Can you say parental amateur?
“Talk like Goofy, Mama” became her personal mantra for an entire year.
That girl was CRAZY about Goofy. And we all know that nuts, especially goofy ones, do not fall far from the tree.
See that photo up there? Well, that’s the Goofy I’ve had since I was seven… because back when I was a clumsy, tall, and toothy young girl, I was crazy about him, too.
Sure, he lacked looks and coordination, and there wasn’t much up there in his brain box, but I loved him precisely because of those missing pieces. Goofy was flawed… delightfully so. And isn’t it the flaws that make interesting characters… well, interesting?
So, you can have your smart and good and squeaky clean Mickey…
But don’t come sniffling to me when you have been BORED to tears.
Give me that gangly, gap-toothed galoot any day – ‘cause then there’s sure to be trouble. And, you know, if there’s trouble… there’s plot!
And if you’ve got a flawed character and a trouble-filled plot, well GARSH – you’ve got a GREAT story, guaranTEED!

By the way, it’s been over 14 years since my last Goofy conversation, and I think my vocal cords have FINALLY recovered…
Recovered enough, anyway, to shout out one more great big GARSH in honor of Goofy’s 80th birthday today!
And dang, that dog still looks good!

PROMPT: Celebrate Goofy’s octogenarian status by giving your characters a fistful of flaws and a whole heap of trouble today! Oh, and cake! Garsh, cake is ALWAYS a good idea!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Books Save Lives

Yesterday’s local paper featured a story about a dramatic rescue. Apparently, a 13-year-old boy slipped while wading in Washington’s fast-moving Wallace River. He said he wasn’t scared at first – he simply focused on keeping his feet pointed downstream like a character in a book he once read.
Rescuers say that probably saved his life.
The boy navigated over a 10-foot waterfall, then managed to make his way to a narrow rock shelf just above Wallace Falls –
a 270-foot drop.
I investigated the story a little further and found that the life-saving book was one in the Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale.
This news story reminded me of another book-to-the-rescue tale that I know about.
A few years ago, a woman was busy paying for fuel when a guy leaped into her car and attempted to drive away. The carjacker was unaware that an extremely feisty 9-year-old was hunkered down in the back seat quietly reading one of Bruce Coville’s Unicorn Chronicles.
Well, this little unicorn lover quickly assessed the situation. Then she proceeded to clobber the thug’s skull with her book.
He fled in terror.

So, there you have it…
A boy was saved by a dragon.
A girl was saved by a unicorn.

Both were saved by books.

Can you think of a better reason to write today?

PROMPT: Do it! That manuscript you’re working on may one day be the defibrillating, ventilating, blood-donating, and invigorating book someone in need really needs!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Musical?

There’s a new musical making the rounds. It’s based on that dreamy bedtime classic written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd.
Yep, Goodnight Moon, THE MUSICAL!
If you’re a parent, you most likely know this book… very well. As in, you could probably recite it from the depths of a Level I coma.
If you are not a parent, or somehow avoided this picture book by jumping straight to Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram, then I’ll sum it up for you.
SPOILER ALERT! Please read on only if you want to know what happens in Goodnight Moon. Don’t say you haven’t been warned!
Goodnight Moon is the gripping tale of a sleepy little bunny who has a bunch of stuff in his great green room. He mentions all the stuff one by one. Then… wait for it… wait for it… he says “goodnight” to all the stuff one by one – adding a final shout-out to “noises everywhere”.
Dare I say that the plot is a bit thin? Dare I say that “room” and “moon” DO NOT rhyme?
Okay, I will shut up. I know I’m breaking hearts right now.
But here’s the thing – plot or not, it’s been made into a MUSICAL!
And my only wish for this awesome theatrical production is that it (please, oh please) answers the Goodnight Moon questions that have burned in my mind for decades –
Whose mush is that?
Who in the world leaves mush on a bedside table ALL NIGHT LONG?
And yet, baby bunny does not offer up one “goodnight” to all the vermin this mush MUST be attracting.
Also, who is the quiet (and somewhat creepy) old lady whispering “hush”?
WIFE? As in, “Yeah man, my old lady’s always whispering hush. What’s a baby bunny biker dude to do?”

Anyway, I’m sure that Goodnight Moon, the Musical is delightful.
But I just can’t see it.
That unsolved mush mystery…
 gives me nightmares.

PROMPT: If Goodnight Moon can be made into a musical, the possibilities are endless! Just imagine what you could do with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. Today would be a great day to pick up your favorite picture book and give it a tuneful try!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What’s Your Window?

When I look out of my office window, I see an old red shed and a garden with its first flush of green. Beyond that is a kite-flying field where a helicopter once landed – out of the blue.
Unless you’re presently serving time in an office cubicle or the state pen, I’m pretty sure you have a window, too. Take a gander out of yours. What do you see? I bet I know…
And musical compositions!
Any time you need a super-fast jump-start on any artistic endeavor, just remember that glassy gap in the wall.
No window?
No worries! There’s a figurative window, too. And you always have that one, no matter where you roam.
Part of its view is often occupational.
As a writer, I typically see ideas for articles, stories, or poems out of this little porthole of mine – regardless of the scenery. But I didn’t always have this view.
Back when I was a neuropsychology intern, I used a much different sort of window. When I viewed the world through that pane, I saw…
Brain damage!
Yep, I could be looking at a tree, a piano, or a house cat, but trust me, it had impairment potential. My coworkers and I often joked that it was a miracle we could even get through our days unscathed – walking around in the world as we did, without wearing helmets or being fully encased in bubble wrap.
Of course, we were all pretty sleep-deprived.
Meanwhile, the psychiatry residents were “catching” every mental illness through their occupational windows. And one nurse on the burn unit refused to use a stove... “It’s not dinner, if it’s not microwavable!” She would say with a fist pump.
Of course, my fellow interns and I didn’t pipe up about all of the brain-damaging chemicals that are potentially released via microwave cookery.
Anyway, occupational or otherwise, it should be no big surprise that the figurative window you look out through, determines your outlook on life.
Here are a couple of examples from literature…
 “Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt.”
Yet here’s a different window in the very same house –
“The sky is perfect blue. The clouds are perfect, too. And here I am with you! What could be more right?” sang Winnie the Pooh.

Ah, poor Eeyore – forever suffering…

from a wee bit of window “pain”.

PROMPT: What’s outside your window? This is a great place to start a bit of art. Then try somebody else’s view for a change. How do farmers see the world? Astronauts? Slugs? What does that garden see, when it looks back at me? Hmmm….

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dream BIG!

Well, I’ll Have Another… fantastic race!
Yep, our hero from a previous post, I’ll Have Another, checked off another victory.
I’m pretty sure that some of the folks around him are dreaming BIG right now… Triple Crown BIG.
Okay, I’ll admit it – I can get pretty obsessed with horse racing. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. In fact, back in the day, when other girls were dreaming of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, and Michael Jackson, I was dreaming of Secretariat. And I could rattle off the bloodlines of the major contenders faster than a nicotine-stained bookie.
Once when my family was vacationing in Miami, I saw Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure breezing at Hialeah Racetrack, and I nearly fainted – Beatles groupie style.
Back then, one of my BIG dreams was to be a jockey. Of course, my body had other plans, as it ratcheted up beyond 5’8”.
So, is it any wonder that I became a writer? John Steinbeck once said, “The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a stable, solid business.”
Yeah, the writing life was another BIG dream of mine.
And I am a BIG dream believer.
I think that if you write for children, you’ve got to be. After all, most kids will not miss a beat when asked about their BIG dreams…
“Someday, I’m gonna build the first ice cream stand… on the MOON!”
“I’m going to create the world’s first sanctuary… for dragons!”
“I’m going to build a flying bicycle so I can keep track of my unicorn herd – they’re pretty shy, you know.”
Ah, kids – such BIG dreamers… and so incredibly, amazingly, wonderfully unrealistic!
But are they?
I’ve read quite a few biographies in my day, and one thing that always smacks me right between the eyes is that every single “great” person seemed to dream BIG well into adulthood.
Take Bill Gates, for example. In one interview he talked about the BIG dream he had… That one day there would be a personal computer for every desk. Considering that the smallest computer at that time was bigger than a refrigerator – that was a mighty BIG dream!
Today Bill still dreams BIG like a kid. In fact, from what I’ve read, I’m pretty sure he’s going for his own Triple Crown – as in, every single child has (1) good health, (2) a great education, and (3) a peaceful world.
Now that’s one BIG… and BEAUTIFUL Triple Crown!
PROMPT: What were your BIG dreams as a kid? These are terrific writing fodder. If you’re working on a novel, what are the BIG dreams of your main characters? Answering this is a great way to get to know them better.
What is your BIG dream today? Got it? Okay, now say “I’ll Have Another” and list out BIG dream #2. Then list yet another, to create your own BIG and BEAUTIFUL Triple Crown!
Sweet Dreams!