Twiggy

In the 1960s, a model from London named Lesley Lawson became a fashion icon. Oh, perhaps you don’t recognize the name. Maybe the name Twiggy will jar your memory. However, if the 1960s was a decade your parents or grandparents remember (rather than you), you probably still have no clue who this is. Back then Twiggy was known for her waiflike look. Even today, some vie for the Twiggy look.

Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images

During my Sunday drive, I couldn’t help thinking of Twiggy with every deciduous tree I passed. Bare, vulnerable branches reached toward the gray sky, which brightened to blue in the afternoon.

Winter strips all of the pomp out of a tree. The circumstance is survival as a tree sheds its leaves and tucks into itself to wait for spring. But in their winter starkness, you can readily see the lovely “bones” of a tree.

In grad school, I had an advisor who did to my sentences what winter does to a tree. I had a habit of trying to get all fancy with my writing, adding phrases I thought grand. My advisor would send me feedback like, “This is crap,” which stripped all of the pomp out of me. Lest you get indignant on my behalf (or you just feel like chortling at the baldness of that statement), she was right. (I almost typed write.) I wanted to sound good, to show the world, “Hey look at me. I can use figurative language to dress up my writing” (though it made no sense character-wise). There is nothing wrong with figurative language. But as my advisor pointed out, if I couldn’t write a basic sentence—one with good “bones” like a solid action verb and a clear subject; one that fits the narrative well, instead of drawing attention to itself simply because it exists to feed my ego—what’s the point? She wanted to feel something, but couldn’t, thanks to my pretentious language.

So that’s why the twiggy-ness of trees moves me. Trees are so well designed, so graceful in their form. Starkness becomes them—and good sentences.

  

Twiggy photo from thegloss.com. Tree photos by L. Marie.

Writing Outside the Box

Having made the decision to write a middle grade novel starring a preteen boy, someone of the opposite sex and generation, I found myself falling into dangerous territory. You know—the territory marked with generalities. “Boys like to do such and such (play sports and videogames, speak one sentence for every eight a girl might utter). Therefore, I can make him do such and such.” This was simply because many of the boys I know (or knew awhile back) did those things.

Horror of horrors, I had written myself into a box. The result was a character as fake as snow in a can.

This

is not this.

How dumb, right? Generalities are not true of all; therefore, you can’t build a good character that way. Only by spending time with boys this age (and those older and younger) did the revelation hit: I needed to stop seeing this character as a stock character—as by-the-numbers as box cake mix—and see him as an individual whose heart and mind I could reveal. (And before you get ready to scream at me, I like many box cake mixes, particularly when someone else does the baking, and adds his or her own touches to make it special. But I digress.)

Case in point, I had to a pick a kid up from school a few times. Both parents were busy, so they asked me if I could pick him up and stay with him until one of them returned home. Now, many people who know this kid are of the belief that he barely talks. Not so. He talked for almost an hour about a Legend of Zelda game. I was the one who barely said a word other than, “Really? . . . Huh. . . . And then what?” He then segued to how much he loved creating music mixes using the software on his computer.

Link from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Other things I discovered: Yes, watching a Barbie video was torture for him, no matter how much his younger sister begged him. And no, he would rather not play baseball or football. Dodge ball? He was the king. Badminton and volleyball? Yup. You could sign him up.

I love this kid! Thanks to him, I felt encouraged to think outside of the box—to avoid relying on generalities—to make my character someone a reader might care about. Someone who seems real.

   

What do you do to go outside of the box as you develop a character? I would appreciate any tips you might have, especially if you’re writing about a character who is very different from you.

Link is from the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild wiki. Duncan Hines cake mix found somewhere on the internet, thanks to bing.com. Other photos by L. Marie. The mini figures are My Mini MixieQs by Mattel. Carrying case also by Mattel.

The Play’s the Thing

By now, you’re probably thinking of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, since the title comes from that play, specifically Act 2, Scene 2:

More relative than this. The play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

But I was actually thinking of what you do when you have downtime (like I did in this post). And in my area, we had oodles of downtime, thanks to the latest snowfall, which brought several inches overnight. What do you do when you barely have electricity (it flickered on and off on the night the snow began to fall in earnest and into the next day), no hot water, bad roads, and no internet, thanks to the snowstorm? (Working at home, I need internet.)

You go outside to scrape the snow boulders off your car, grumbling as you do so, because you can’t get your driver’s side door open. A layer of ice keeps it stuck fast. Same with the passenger door. And you need the scraper on the front seat. You grumble again. Finally, you get the rear passenger door open and crawl to the front over the center console, knocking your rearview mirror askew, and wind up in a tangled heap of boots, coat, and scarf in the driver’s seat. After shoving and shoving, you get the door open.

You scrape. And grumble. And scrape. Rinse. Repeat.

But then, something magical happens. In the distance, you notice the trees as the snow continues to fall. With the snow lacing their branches, they look like Christmas trees. And as you trudge wearily back to your building, you take in the sheer delight of a small child experiencing snow for the first time. His excitement is contagious. You think, The snow is pretty. Winter dresses the earth in frosting with a skill the finest cake decorator can only dream of emulating. (Okay, one tree is a little heavy on the frosting.)

   

This is a scene where you wouldn’t be surprised if a unicorn showed up.

  

As you talk with the child and his grandfather, you realize that going out to play is the thing to do on a day like this.

    

As I headed inside to cocoa it up, a friend texted, It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

It sure is.

If you have snow in your area, what’s your favorite thing to do on a snowy day?

Do you want to build a snowman?

Donatina thinks this chunk of snow looks like a dog.

P.S. The power finally went out for a while, then came back on, only to go out again and on again. Finally got internet early Tuesday morning.

Photos by L. Mare. Donatina Shoppie by Moose Toys.

The Profound Gift of Laughter

With Thanksgiving Day approaching here in the States, you probably expect to see a post on gratitude or family—a subject people normally write about at this time of year. And I have seen a number of thoughtful posts along those lines.

But this is not one of those posts.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the blessings of family or a holiday in which you can eat till you drop. (Every holiday in my opinion.) And I had every intention of writing one of those Thanksgiving gratitude posts. But instead, I can’t help writing about the gift of laughter.

Nancy Hatch over at Spirit Lights the Way usually writes about this subject much more eloquently. If you follow her blog, you can probably recall a post or two. But the reason why I’m thinking about laughter is the fact that I discount the power of laughter sometimes. Yet a sense of humor is one of the traits I look for in a friend.

Years ago, I remember laughing with some friends as one of them told a story about a friend of his. Even after six years, we still laugh about that story. Sorry. I don’t have permission to tell it. There’s a chance you wouldn’t find it even remotely funny. But the first time I heard it, for a solid week it made me laugh every time I thought about it.

The fact that we can laugh at all these days seems like a miracle, especially with all of the sad things happening. Grief has a way of piercing the heart. But laughter does too, in a different way.

I guess I’m stuck on the power of laughter because I know what depression is like. It’s like a place with endless gray walls and not a speck of light. That’s why I treasure laughter. it brings the light in.

I remember reading Terry Pratchett’s book, The Wee Free Men, for the first time when I was feeling down. It made me laugh really, really hard. I searched for my copy of it as I thought about this post, but couldn’t find it. It has a tendency to wander about. But it always turns up when I need it. I laugh every time I read it.

You already know this, but in case you don’t, here is one of the health effects of laughter, which this post at healthguide.org describes:

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

What was the last thing that made you laugh really hard?

May your holiday season be filled with laughter.

Though ’tis the season for Thanksgiving, Kitty is already planning her Christmas scheme. She plans to sit on the sidewalk and ask people for money. Her motto: “Give till it hurts.”

Barbie and Ken can only roll their eyes. But somehow they’re thankful for the laughter their adopted daughter Kitty bringing into their lives.

After eating copious amounts of turkey, these friends plan to binge watch their favorite show, The Great British Baking Show. And of course they will have pie as they watch it.

Turkey from wallyball.homestead.com. Book cover from Goodreads. Great British Baking Show logo found at thats-normal.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Apple Blossom by Moose Toys.

Happy Fall?

Well, if the weather were a song, it would go like this. (Um you have to supply your own music.)

You never stay the same.

There’s no need for me to complain.

   

I’m onto your yearly game.

These photos will try to explain.

Okay, it’s not much of a song. More like a chorus. 😀 😁

If you live in the Midwest, you know the drill. The weather is as changeable as some celebrities’ hair colors. Eighteen degrees Fahrenheit (-7.7 Celsius) one minute, 32 (or 0 Celsius) the next. Dry one day, snow the next, and then back to dry—all within a few days. Since the temperature is as up and down as a yo-yo, perhaps the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma is the best musician to play a song based on it. (Okay, that was a groaner. Wuh-wah.)

At least Illinois ranked number 13 on the list of states with the worst winters. That means twelve other states have it worse! (In case you’re wondering, Minnesota is number one. Click here for that list. Hawaii is dead last, which made me laugh. Perhaps they could try harder this coming season.) And the winter season has not officially started! Still, the changeable weather makes deciding what to wear very interesting.

Speaking of interesting, you’re probably interested in who won the $25 Amazon card announced in this post. (Thank you to all who commented, by the way.)

Without further ado, the winner, thanks to the random number generator, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Marie of 1 Write Way!

Congrats, Marie! Please comment to confirm below. I will need the email address you use for Amazon. If you prefer to email me that info, please let me know.

Doug from the movie up was found at Reddit.com. Amazon image from Amazon. Other photos by L. Marie.

Just Because Giveaway

So, the days have been looking like this.

   

On days like this, I’m tempted to do this all day . . .

. . . especially with all of the election stuff bludgeoning our senses and overfilling our mailboxes and “circular files.”

So, I asked the girls—Marsha Mello (below center) and her new friends, Sallee (left) and Noah—what I should do to avoid giving into the gloom.

Noah: Got any cake?
Me: What does that have to do with what I just asked?
Noah (shrugs): I just want some.
Sallee: I got a new puppy.
Marsha: I want a puppy.
Noah: I have a cat and a dog.

This was a simulation of an actual conversation I had a while ago with a group of second and third graders. This experience reminded me of something I’ve always found to be true (at least in my experience): whenever you’re feeling gloomy, talk to a kid. Some of the tangents they go on in conversations will cheer you right up.

Anyway, I didn’t really need advice for what to do. I already had a plan: I would host a giveaway. Why? Just because there’s been enough negativity in the world. Time to spread some joy. 😀 😁 Getting free stuff always brightens my day. (This is why I love samples at the grocery store.) What am I giving away? A $25 Amazon card (or its equivalent at Amazon UK).

What do you have to do to get it? Comment below to be entered in the random drawing. Tell me what you like to do on rainy days. Winner to be announced on November 12 or 13 (whenever I decide to post next).

Amazon image from Amazon. Other photos by L. Marie. Marsha Mello Shoppie by Moose Toys. Sallee and Noah Hairdorables are by Just Play.

Kitty Wants Out

See? She has candy. She knows how to celebrate the season.

She also has a T-Rex. There’s time to run though. He’s not finished (still being sewn).

Every once in a while, I feel pressured great joy to cover the antics of Kitty, even after forgiving her time after time for stealing the loose change out of my wallet. (Though how she managed to do that while carrying that cupcake in her two hands is something for the Guinness Book of Records I guess.) Even now, she’s not really doing anything worth mentioning. Just standing there on the desk staring at me. I don’t know if that means she’s plotting mischief or taking a break.

My bad. She’s saying something.

Kitty: I’m bored. Need to get out of the house. So, how do I muscle in on this Halloween thing?
Me (staring blankly at her): What do you mean?
Kitty: Halloween. How do I profit by it?
Me: There’s no profit to be made. You pass out candy to kids or to adults who show up in costume at your door. That’s it.
Kitty: Easy peasy. I’ll just make candy. Get me some construction paper and I’ll draw some to give out.
Me: You have to give real candy! Otherwise people will come after you with tar and pitchforks. (Under my breath) You should be used to that treatment by now.
Kitty: Did you say something?
Me (innocent): Me? No.
Kitty (sounding menacing, though standing there with a cupcake kinda renders this moot): I didn’t think so.
Me (trying to be helpful): You can get a bag of candy at the store for $2.99.
Kitty (light bulb): Ah. Get several bags. We can sell ’em to your neighbors for $17.50 a bag.
Me (knowing the futility of explaining to her that no one in his or her right mind would pay almost six times the price for a bag of candy that he/she could get at the store for $2.99): I see where you’re going with that.
Kitty (gleefully rubbing her hands while still holding on to that cupcake): I’ll make a fortune. Run along to the store now. We’ll be grifting in no time.

Sigh. Of course, you know this scheme is doomed. As a probable aftermath, I can’t help thinking:

Better get used to these bars, kid.

(If you know what movie this line is from, please tell me in the comments. [I already know the movie, BTW.])

Have a happy and safe Halloween.

On a more sobering note: Thinking about and praying for the families of the victims of the recent Pittsburgh shooting. As you grieve, know that others are grieving with you.

Photos by L. Marie.