Sunday, October 30, 2011


A wise old owl sat in an oak
 the more he saw, the less he spoke
the less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why aren't we all like that wise old bird?

Pip's owl costume.
Remember our birthday tree?

Well, it turns out birthday buntings 
double as owl suits. 


Whether she's recognizable as an owl, whoooo knows, 
but she's happy.  

After twenty costume scenarios, 
and dozen more cooking
in her imaginative mind,
Winnie was finally lassoed into being a cowgirl.

Cookie monster:
Sisters' fuzzy hat and sweater,
Ping pong ball eyes. 

Baby giraffe.   

"These notices had been written by Christopher Robin, who was the only one in the forest who could spell; for Owl, wise though he was in many ways, able to read and write and spell his own name WOL, yet somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like MEASLES and BUTTEREDTOAST."

- Winnie the Pooh, A.A.Milne

Some Owlish Book Love:

Owl Babies - Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson

Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel

Owl Moon - Jane Yolen, ill. by John Schoenherr

Whoo-oo Is It - Megan McDonald, ill. by S.D. Schindler

Peek a Who? - by Nina Laden

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing is Magnetic

Why Speed Scrabble is good for writers...

Every Tuesday,
I visit the classroom
and play "literacy sort" with six and seven year-olds.

We cut words from paper 
and shuffle them around 
to find out how they are similar or different. 

Most of the kids are okay with this sorting game, 
but one of my new friends 
is traumatized. 

He wants his little word scraps to stay in one place, 
straight as soldiers, unsullied by battle.

As a writer enamored with my first drafts, I sympathize. 

It's painful to step back from your work. 

A good pair of pruning shears can help.
 Or a few rounds of Speed Scrabble. 


It's great for practicing revisions:
Learning to improvise,
To scribble 
your heart out, 
and start again.

How do you step back from your work?
Are you open to change?
Do you improvise?

To fuel my Scrabble fire, 
we made alphabet rock magnets, 
inspired by this.




Magnets and Glue.


Let the refrigerator games begin!

A Speed Scrabble how-to for novices:

Speed Scrabble is like "miracle-gro" for writers in revision.

The idea is that you play sans game board, creating a personal network of connecting words with your first handful of letter tiles. 
Every time you draw a new letter, you scramble your previous words to make room for it.  
Even if you adore that you made "quixotic," you are willing to sacrifice it to make a new bundle of connecting words. You're done when you can't figure out where to go next, or you've used up all of the tiles. It can be played alone or in competition, depending on your personality. 

Don't you feel your improvising juices sloshing around already?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding Your Inner Pirate

What pirates do before they pillage...

How do you reach your inner pirate?
How do you get in touch with your characters?

And even more importantly, 
do you dress up?

If I was Jo in Little Women, I'd scribble novels 
in writing smock and red beret. 

As Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night,  I'd jot down mysteries in garnet silk dressing gown, armed with ample cups of tea and cream scones. 

But in real life, I am dull as toast. 
I wear comfortable, mostly black clothes, 
type on the laptop, scribble in notebooks, 
do small art 
in my small corner 
and drink coffee 
(decaf! )
with animal crackers. 

my corner "studio"
squashed into the corner of our dining room. 

is where 
I write. 
My home
for short slips of time,

usually when the little guys nap

I nurse a hot mug
and dive deep

to other worlds,
draft cities,  
waft characters 
onto page 
and into breath
craft injuries, death,
sparks and embers,

and then return 
the squashed corner of the dining room,
to the end-of-nap time 
and rolling snowball of day's end. 

but if I could get away with it, I'd dress up...

clown around,

play gingerbread girls

or princess Leia x2

What is your secret
for getting into character as you work?

Do you have a magic rubber chicken,
a writing shawl, a special bottle of writing potion,
perfume, massage chair, a pair of slippers?

Give me your tips. I'd love to know!

Book Love:

Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer

Thy Friend, Obadiah by Brinton Turkle
Obadiah the Bold by Brinton Turkle

Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, illustrated by David Shannon

Roger, the Jolly Pirate by Brett Helquist

The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline 

Although not pirate-themed, you must see this modern classic.
I am absolutely wowed by Bagram Ibatoulline's illustrations. The text is ballad style,  clean and lilting as a sea shanty, the art intricate and masterful as an old world wonder.  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Failure Floats

Sinkers and Floaters.

This summer we made an entire fleet 
of homemade boats.
We wanted to see which would be the most seaworthy.

If you're an artist or writer, you may be able to relate.

How do you view what you've made - 

as experiments, 
or tiny pieces of your soul?

Too often as a writer, 
I send out tiny pieces of my soul I like to call 

My manuscript souls wobble out into the blue -

some of them proud and brave, 
others nervously checking their rigging,
desperate to sail smooth waters.

But when those manuscript soul pieces,
(dare I call them horocruxes?)
hit bad seas 
or... or...


I keel over.
Much like my tin can boat. 
It didn't even float for one second. Oops. 
I guess I shouldn't have cut that gaping hole in the side.

How much better would it be 

to think of what I produce
as experiments in progress,

to play more,
to laugh
and take myself with a pinch of salt. or saltwater.

Tiny pistachio shell fairy boats.

Egg carton boats.

Paper boats. 
(It helped to dip them in wax so they didn't turn to putty in water.)

We made extras for school friends, 
complete with pencil masts 
and goldfish crackers.

Woven stick and string rafts.

After days of preparation for our regatta, 
the kids scrapped the boats altogether.

There's some kind of lesson in this. I just know it. 

Maybe the moral is that it's good to diversify. 

Work on more than one creation at a time
so that if one sinks, 
or gets critiqued, or rejected,
you don't jump overboard in devastation

or, maybe the moral 
is just to

give yourself a little breathing room.

Splash a little. 
Sink a little. 
We all fail. 
But we live, too. 
We have only so much time on this planet. 
It should be a joyful sailing, right?

Book Love:

Toy Boat, by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Loren Long

If you have not seen this book, you simply must. 
Loren Long's illustrations are smooth and stunning,
Randall de Seve's writing is succinct and powerful. 
This book gives me happy chills.
It's "The Little Engine That Could" for a new generation. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...