An aspiring author confronts the literary demons of the world and sets off in search of an agent.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

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(With apologies to J.K. Rowling).


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If There Were Counting Gnomes

In my yet-to-be-published book, I imagined a new species of Gnomes known as the Counting Gnomes. They differ in a number of ways from the more commonly known varieties of gnomes such as Garden Gnomes or Forest Gnomes. Most notably, they love to count things. They can, and often do, spend the entire day doing nothing but counting.

For example, a Counting Gnome can devote an entire morning to counting the number of blades of grass in a lawn. During lunch he’ll count the number of macs in his mac and cheese, then go outside to count the number of clouds in the sky. If a thunderstorm rolls by, he’ll count the number of times he hears thunder. Moreover, just before he goes to bed he’ll count the number of different things he counted during the day.

When a Counting Gnome says, “make every day count” – he really means it!

Garden Gnomes and Forest Gnomes think all this counting business is silly and do not get along well with their Counting Gnome brethren. They also find it is silly that Counting Gnomes have palindromes for names. After all, how ridiculous is it to have a name like Ottomotto Onono, Ikki Tonsasnot, Ababa Booboob, Nippin Pinnip, or Oopoo Boogananagoob?

As you can imagine, things are different during the childhood of a Counting Gnome. For example, they spend their summers at Camp Counting and they sing the following camp song each day:

We are the counters,
 Mighty, mighty counters!
 All the people we encounter,
 Ask, “What’s the amount there?”

 So we tabulate,
 Then enumerate.

 We are Counting Gnomes,
 Mighty, mighty Gnomes,
 Our homes are tiny little domes,
 Our names are palindromes.

 So we tabulate,
 Then enumerate.

 One, two, three, and four,
 It’s time to count some more.
 If we get to four score,
 Gonna have eighty more.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Writing to Save a Life

What if you had to write a story to save a life? That was the situation I faced a number of years ago while working on a project to educate the children of migrant farmworkers about the dangers of pesticide poisoning.

I remember reading the testimony of one farmworker: “One time there was a bunch of little kids playing with a pesticide can, and it had been raining, and the children they don’t know very much, and they were playing in this, and I don’t know how it happened, probably the child drank the water and a few hours later she died.”

In the face of such heartbreak, it takes faith to believe in the power of a story to make a difference. Still, I chose to do that and the result was a comic book character, Digger McGee, “the mysterious champion of farmworkers.” Originally written for use in New York State, the package was used in several other states as well as adapted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for use in English-speaking Africa.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

From the Really, Really Bad Book Idea Department:

From the deep, dark regions of my imagination (the part that works overtimes to produce puns): an utterly dreadful idea for a book proposal. As in totally lame. Here are some excerpts from the proposal. And for good measure, why not imagine a t-shirt based on the book…ack!

Dear Agent:

What happens when you don’t take the road less traveled? Ask someone like M. Scott Peck and you will get a serious answer. Ask a serial punster and you can imagine what my proposed book, LESSons from the Road Less Traveled, is all about.

The book asks a simple question: What really happens if you don’t take the road less traveled because you fail to pursue your dream?  LESSons from the Road Less Traveled provides these LESSons in the form of a pun.

For example, the book begins with some relatively simple but punful LESSons:

If you don’t pursue your dream of being a detective…
                                    that makes you clueLESS

If you don’t pursue your dream of being a seismologist…
                                    that makes you faultLESS

If you don’t pursue your dream of breeding Dalmatians…
                                    that makes you spotLESS

If you don't pursue your dream of bringing back the use of Morse code…
                                    that makes you re-MorseLESS

If you don’t pursue your dream of being a truly great landlord…
                                    that makes you a LESSer LESSor.

It also includes a number of double entendre LESSons such as:

If you don’t pursue your dream of teaching knot making to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts…
                                    that means their ropes will be LESS taut because they were taught LESS

We have even identified a rare condition that can be classified as the “Lessness Syndrome.” For example:

If Gershwin had never pursued his dream of writing an opera about the fishing village in South Carolina…
                                    Theater goers would be suffering a severe
case of PorgyandbessLESSness

We go on to ponder the road less taken involving celebrity or famous fictional characters:

If don’t pursue your dream of being just as evil as Voldemor
that makes you "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-NameLESS"

That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind the new book entitled, LESSons from the Road Less Traveled. 


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

YoSimile Sam

Yesterday's post featuring a segment from the TV show Schoolhouse Rock! has fueled my imagination. I am now envisioning a short feature entitled, YoSimile Valley. It would follow the adventures of an irascible character named YoSimile Sam and his sidekicks, Hyphenated-Harry, Eleanor Rigmarole and Metaphorically Speaking Mary.  Of course it would have a catchy theme song with lyrics that go something like this:

            He’s sharp as a tack and smart as a fox,       
            Fit as a fiddle, strong as an ox,
            Floats like the butterflies, stings like the bees.
            He’s right as rain and fresh as the breeze,
            Eats like a horse, is hungry as a bear,
            Free as a bird, light as the air.
            He’s old as dirt and proud as a peacock,
            Stubborn as a mule, solid as rock,
            Tough as nails,sound as a bell.
            He’s as large as life and deep as a well,
            Wise as an owl, cunning as a rat,
            Merry as a cricket, calm as a cat.
            He’s fleet as the wind and straight as an arrow,
            Old as the hills, silent as a shadow,
            Gentle as a lamb – he’s the one, the only, YoSimile Sam!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Tale of Two Interviews

I've been ruminating over the stark contrast between two interviews concerning the topic of the friendship between Marilyn Monroe and Carl Sandburg.

The first  interview was conducted by Meredith Vieira of The Today Show with photographer Lee Steckler about a set of recently rediscovered pictures taken of a visit between Monroe and Sandburg. What a phenomenal opportunity to learn something new about two fascinating personalities. Vieira might have asked “What topics did they like to talk about?” Instead, she chose to inquire whether there might have been a romance between the two.

My reaction was three-fold:
  • Please! Monroe was thirty-five and Sandburg was in his eighties at the time. 
  • It's the type of question I'd expect from a serial gossiper, not a thoughtful interviewer.
  • The playwright Arthur Miller once said of his ex-wife: “… she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.” With her display of prurience, it seems Vieira has joined the rabble of clothes-pullers.
Now, contrast Meredith Vieira’s approach with the following from PBS’ American Masters series that featured an interview with Gail Levin about her film: Marilyn Monroe: Still Life.

Q: Of the thousands of photographs you looked at for this film, which ones gave you the most insight into her true personality?

A: That one in particular, the Arnold Newman one. He says it’s the real Marilyn, you know? It really is this portrait shot of her, cut out of a two shot of her talking to Carl Sandburg. I had looked at those pictures many times, and never seen that the portrait was actually just a cropped version of this photograph. So already the eye of the photographer is present, just in being able to see what he has in his own picture. And I said to him, “God, look at that. Carl Sandburg is just listening to her,” and he said, “No, she was just pouring her heart out, she was miserable.” He did that photograph in March of ‘62 and she was dead by August of ‘62. She was already very troubled, very sad. So the whole circumstance of the photograph was one that you didn’t necessarily know when first looking at it.

Somehow the second interview got beyond the superficial to "the real Marilyn" (which seems an important topic for a wannabe writer like myself to ponder). The second interviewer successfully set up the context for us to recognize the poet in Marilyn Monroe. And speaking of poets, here’s an excerpt from Sandburg’s Clark Street Bridge – I can almost imagine he was thinking of Marilyn when he wrote it:

     Voices of broken hearts,
     . . Voices singing, singing,
     . . Silver voices, singing,
     Softer than the stars,
     Softer than the mist.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Lovely Scones

The recent release of the movie version of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold means it's time for a humorous homage to this wonderful book. Enjoy!

From the author who brought us The Buns of Navarone.
A deceased baker watches from heaven and ruminates on the meaning of hot cross buns.


Monday, February 1, 2010

What really happens to all those query letters?