For some reason, this year has been busier than usual. I haven’t had a lot of time to work on personal projects, and so this blog as well as my Twitter and Instagram accounts have been dormant for a few months. So I’m not doing that well in the social media/follower departments.
Apart from managing our household and the lives and endless paperwork (overnight diapers still included) of the 3 and 5 year old Jaegerlings, I can’t complain that it was paying contract work from my main client, k12.com, that ate the remainder of my free time! Whatever higher power placed me with K12 14 years ago sure has a sense of humor since, once again, I’ve been working in my worst academic subject – math! Trust me, it’s a lot more fun for me to graphic design and code it than it ever was for me to study it. Ah well.
In addition to the craziness of this year, my husband got laid off from his proposal manager position this week. Well then! It’s certainly going to be an interesting next few months as he very well might be joining me in the consulting and contracting world. For right now, if you need any freelance writing, editing, resume formatting, grant application or proposal work, he’s your guy. If you need graphics I’m your gal. Hmmmm maybe we could work together? That’s so crazy it just might work! What could possibly go wrong? Check back with me in a few months.
In spite of all this, I HAD to make time for my favorite muse, Susanna Hill’s 6th annual Halloweensie competition. This is the 5th piece I have written for Susanna’s competitions. The parameters, restrictions, and deadlines are great for exercising the puzzles of character, plot, and wordcraft for me. So for this, I will make time! And then… back to geometry for the remainder of November.
The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words, children here defined as 12 and under), using the words spider, ghost, and moon.
It’s hard to believe it was only a week ago that I was in Springfield MA, attending the NE SCBWI conference. Wow, what a fantastic weekend! I met great people, connected with “internet friends” (in person!), learned lots, got inspired, and now have quite a lot of work to do. I made a a bunch of mental notes to try and remember to blog about — I probably won’t get it all but hopefully I’ll get the interesting bits.
There were sooooooo many wonderful workshops to pick from when I registered. I had a hard time choosing them as I couldn’t be in two or three places at once. My only disappointment was not getting more time with Patrick Carman. He’s doing some amazingly innovative work integrating media but his keynote didn’t really go into this and I unfortunately had to chose other workshops over his.
Randomly (because if you know me, I often toss in something totally random) the best out-of-context quote I overheard all weekend was “Yes! She found her dongle in her chamber pot!” (I can only assume they were talking about Sarah Albee)
Tips for Storytelling
I’m not sure if anyone talked about “what does this character want more than anything in the world?” but I heard a few people mention it as something we should already know and then going on from there. Maybe that focus is already old news?
Be careful that you don’t write an idea instead of a story. You can have a great concept but it’s nothing without an arc.
If your story has an emotional theme (heart), it should boil down to one unifying emotion overall. (This ties in nicely with a parallel through-line of action)
“This story is about x, but it is REALLY about Z” (for example, Little Blue Truck goes out for a drive but it’s REALLY about the virtues of being a good friend.)
From Tara Lazar (Beginning, Middle, End – I’m bummed I had to miss the MIDDLE of Tara’s workshop for my portfolio review. Only slightly ironic.)
Give the who, what, when and where but lead your reader to ask “why”?
First sentences are your hook but a resolution need not be the end. What happens after “happily ever…?” (not strictly necessary, but it leaves room for a sequel) Also, don’t give away the farm. It’s ok to leave some things ambiguous.
A great ending is inevitable – audience cannot imagine it ending any other way (this was repeated by several other presenters over the weekend).
If your ending isn’t satisfying, the problem is probably in your middle.
Children need to solve their own problems. No Parent ex machina.
From Aubrey Poole (Getting Outside Your Zone of Comfort: The Hero’s Journey applied to Character Development)
Using the Hero’s Journey as an arc, a character enters an unfamiliar situation and has to adapt to it.
Going outside the character’s comfort zone creates tension.
Character wants something (it may not be his dream), pays a price for it (sacrifices his dream for it), and maybe gets a different version of it than he thinks he wants, concluding with a return to a “new normal” (falling action), the resolution having changed the character.
Exception to this is the “steadfast character” who re-commits to who they are rather than changing who they are.
Echoing Tara, If your ending feels flat, without emotional response, your resolution is unsatisfactory (again, a great ending is inevitable).
From Wendy Mass‘ Keynote (Getting from Here to There (and Back Again) with your Sanity Intact)
Cut out unnecessary words (thank you, Stunk and White) and avoid any form of the verb “to be” (can someone please remind me which play that was in? I can’t ever hear that without being reminded of a play I saw in middle school…)
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi
“Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.”
And then she gave us all awesome waterproof notebooks made of stone because of course we all do our best thinking in the bath or shower.
Sarah gave us A LOT of great information on how to present our work to optimal marketability.
There is subjectivity as to whether or not you should put your contact information on the front of your postcard. Some say you MUST in case you get pinned to a wall. Others say it’s not a big deal to just turn the card over.
Be careful not to include “portraits” in your portfolio. They don’t tell stories.
Avoid showing character’s backs for sample art.
An illustration needs to tell a story, make the viewer ask questions about what is happening in the illustration and what is going to happen next.
An illustration needs to show emotion and relationship between characters (keep an eye on the eyes. The eyes have it!).
Use motion and gesture.
Details! Plenty of details (this was also mentioned in the First Look panel as well as Brian Lies’ workshop – see below)
Details are even more important in fairy tales because we already KNOW the story.
The technical execution of the piece and it’s medium is less important than the story it tells and the emotion it conveys.
If an image is meant to be a postcard, make sure it works in a small scale.
For a portfolio piece, it may be a good idea to leave room for text – a space where the text will obviously go.
Be aware of the gutter. Don’t put important stuff in the middle of a spread (1/2″ at least).
If submitting to magazines, review their formats and submit with those formats in mind (tall and skinny? side panels?)
If there is something out there that you really want to illustrate, put samples of that in your portfolio. Show the work you’d like to do more of.
Keep the style consistent. Push a style that is your signature. You will be hired for predictability.
Another thing you are showing off in your portfolio is your design sense.
Send postcards 3-4 times a year when you are first starting out, then twice a year when you’re more established.
Don’t forget to send to junior editors and art directors. They keep boards too.
Exercises similar to theatrical improv games that are meant to spark your creativity and enhance your skills.
In which we created 30 sketches in 1 hour. Wow, that was painful. Sergio gave us verbal prompts that we had to draw and timed us. I think some of the participants got a little frustrated but this was an amazingly liberating exercise.
Our last assignment was to take 3 of these sketches and combine them into a 3-panel story or logical sequence like three mice meet a hippo and then go off to watch the sun set. I actually kind of like what I came up with and plan to finish it.
This is a great exercise which, of course, we can all do at home, or over Skype, or something like that. We just need to make a list of 30 prompts.
From Dan Moynihan (Spark New Ideas with Drawing!” and “Pictures First! Draw Out Your Story”)
“As I draw the characters, I learn about the characters.”
Both of Dan’s workshops consisted of games. The first was really an after dinner game where we all drew in magic marker colors and passed our work around the table embellishing each other’s sketches.
Our second game was constructing an illustrated story by passing work along after each spread. The results were hilarious. I pretty much forgot how to draw entirely right about then. Some of us presented these monstrosities to “the class” afterwards.
The second workshop the following day was similar to Sergio’s in that Dan had us draw, but instead of different things we drew to the same prompt word over and over and over again in order to help find the story within our illustrations.
And then we drew the same character over and over and over again doing different things. This is one way to learn about the character.
I’ve always been more linear and had never thought to “draw out” a story this way but it totally works. You draw different sketches until they connect, piece them together until the story arc makes sense, then put them into the dummy and proceed to tighten them up.
From Brian Lies (The Angel’s in the Details: Going Beyond First-Order Thinking in Illustration World-Building)
Sidenote – I could just sit and listen to Brain read the phone book (if I still had one). He has such a great voice!
Details give us information (historical, geographical, demographics)
Details puzzle and delight us.
Details take us away from the generic and tell us stories about the characters. Like props and costumes. We know people and characters by their “stuff.”
Name (and nickname) your characters.
Put in things for the “grown-ups” to find – especially when they have to read the book over and over again (and you want them to, right?)
Convincing details lead to a convincing illustration – Mice wouldn’t have cheese wallpaper any more than humans have pizza wallpaper.
Scale is important – A bear would write a BIG letter. A mouse would write a LITTLE letter. A bear’s letter in a mouse’s house would be pretty big.
Brian gave us an exercise where we were to populate a portion of a character’s life with thoughtful details. This exercise taught us a little more about our characters (If you are a writer and don’t want to draw, you can simply make a list).
Finally… About the (my) Creative Challenge
And this one was definitely a challenge.
Before the conference we had to do the usual promotional prep work (cards, portfolios, in come cases buttons — I’ll have to remember that for next time! They’re just jingly fun to share). But we were also tasked with an illustration challenge to “Re-Invent Jules Verne. Choose anything written by Jules Verne and reinvent it, bring it into the 21st century. Anything goes, as long as it’s kid through teen friendly” at a double page 16″ x 10″ size. I picked From the Earth to the Moon. As part of my updating, I rewrote the quote.
I don’t consider this piece finished. I just ran out of time. And it’s got a lot of problems (hopefully I see more of them than you do!) but I do like it. I challenged myself to push a little more into the abstract layout than I usually go, mostly because of the Folger Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Seriously.
I realize that there is absolutely no obvious connection here. But it had to do with the stage set and the placement of a wedding cake high up in the back wall ABOVE the wedding scene. But it made the point. This was a wedding. And we didn’t question the placement. I had an “aha” moment. I’ve always been too straight-forward with my design. My set designs back in college were also always too… literal? I’m not sure when I got that grounded. I used to draw flying people like Chagall when I was a kid… Aha.
SO, I decided to try and break out of this a little and loosen up on this project. At which point the illustration started fighting with me. I wanted to do it in colored pencils, it wanted to be digital. We wrestled our way to a happy medium around an agreement on the concept. You may notice there are windows in the sky and stars on the background buildings? I’ve always been fascinated with city windows. Every time we drove over the 59th Street bridge at night, I would gawk as best as I could into the apartment windows at eye level, then look past them at the twinkling lights of Manhattan and think about all the people behind all those lights. The distance makes musing more poignant until it doesn’t matter if we’re looking at windows or at stars…
Next, I wanted to stay true to the concept of the story; that a group of people are trying to plan a trip to the moon. So my kids are out on the rooftop in various stages of planning or dreaming about how they’re going to get to the moon. Also, all the roof-top water towers of the city look like rocket ships. I’ve always thought so, anyway. Here’s where my Aha moment came in… I wanted to break the reality of my illustration and have the children’s plans and ideas floating above their heads to try and convey that this is what the illustration is really about. And I also wanted to make the plans LOOK like plans. So I inversed the graphite and added a grid to the water towers on the left that looks like graph paper. Continuing with the inversed graphite for the children and foreground was an experiment, and I’m afraid I cleaned up the lines too much on the right-hand side. I like the idea of what I did here better than my execution, but as I said, I don’t consider this piece done.
All in all, it was a good exercise for me. But it’s not the portfolio piece that the challenge suggested it might turn out to be. But I did get to scan a slice of bread for the moon texture.
WHAT A FANTASTIC WEEKEND! I got to hang with some great people – I now have at least 30 new Facebook friends, enjoyed dinner with strangers who are strangers-no-more, Sharon Abra Hanen (who invited me to dinner by overhearing me say I didn’t yet have dinner plans), Sarah Ignatius, Lin Norman-Lyman, and Heather Steffens. I was privileged to spend quality time with folks who have been inspiring me from afar for years including Jane Yolen and Tara Lazar (who are BOTH hilarious in person), and Kelly Light and Heidi Stemple (whom I also know from social media and who are ALSO hilarious in person. I’m fairly sure Kelly and I crossed paths in college, and Heidi reminds me so strongly of my cousin that I’m quite positive we’re related), Jannie Ho (whom I “met” doing Illustration Friday 10+ years ago and finally got to meet in person!) Courtney Pippin Mathur (the only person I’d met “in person” prior to the conference because she lives near me!), Vita Lane and Jason Hart (for one of the most wildly coincidental lunches I’ve had in a while – Not often I run into someone who remembers seeing a play that I designed in college!) all my #KidlitArt friends (@emilywayneart @AutumnSeybert @reneekurilla @ClarElizabeth4 @ioanahobai @APSabourin @scillabert @juliaanneyoung @erniedelia @fultonbeal @matusic @sarahlynnereul @ClaireLordon @IllustratorPG1 @PSWCreative @AJSmithillustr, joshfunkbooks) and Marlo Garnsworthy (I’m sorry Carlyn couldn’t make it but happy she introduced us!), Jennifer DesAutels, and Roya (so lovely to meet you!!).
I know I’m still leaving many, many people out!
I got tons of inspiration and advice and some conflicting feedback about what I need to do next work-wise that I still need to parse… But now… back to my reality where I’ll be spending the next 8 months parsing this all out!
The rules: Write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone is grumpy!
Susanna must be my writing muse because so far, the only writings I’ve completed have been for her competitions! Perhaps it’s because I write better with specific assignments and rules so I don’t ramble on and on, writing “like an illustrator”? I’m not sure. But I DO know that these competitions are wonderful learning experiences for me.
I feel like a rock tumbler, polishing and polishing until the final little piece emerges. And no matter how much I really liked my original draft, I see how much better the final piece really is. Working with the word count constraints makes me have to think long and hard about which words I absolutely must keep in order to convey the precise story, what bits were just entertaining chaff, and what I don’t have to write out because it is implied by the other text, and/or would be illustrated.
This story was a painful edit for me because my first draft was 455 words long! Just for fun, and because I like exploring the process, I’ve included two earlier drafts in the drop down’s beneath the final so that if you’re curious, you can see how the rough bits got polished. I will not include my instant messenger log wherein I texted my husband the descending word count as I chiseled away as a matter of score-keeping which he smartly ignored until I hit 214. He then offered a 5 word edit that, I feel, brilliantly completed the story.
A quick side-note on the illustration atop this post: The topic for the kidlitart chat on February 4th was all about finding your voice as an illustrator, and a challenge ensued involving a quick illustration each day for the month of February (you can read more about that here). I included a quick illustration for this story as part of that challenge, though I have not been drawing every day as I did for the kidlitart28 challenge last year. By doing up this little illustration, I also discovered that the front side of Strathmore’s “Colored Pencil” pads do not work well with Prismacolor colored pencils. What the what?
Come In For the Cold
“Hot chocolate is for kids who get to play outside in the snow!” Sheena yelled back down the stairs. “I’m not cold and I don’t need warming up!”
“Sounds like you do,” her mother replied cheerfully.
“Sorry. I’m missing ALL the fun.” A deep Valentine’s snow had fallen and everybody was sledding on the driveway beneath Sheena’s window. She puffed on the pane and drew a frowny face. “Stupid broken leg.”
Sheena heard the door open and the stomping off of snow in the hall. Her brother came up the stairs.
“Go away!” She snapped without turning around, then shrieked as Joey dumped handfuls of snow over her head.
“Lighten up!” he laughed as Sheena frantically dusted icy flakes from her neck, “I can’t let you miss ALL the fun!”
“What ARE you doing?” Sheena sputtered, reaching for her crutches.
“Since you can’t come out and play, we’ll make a snowman here,” Joey chirped as he emptied a bucket of fluffy snow into the bathtub.
Sheena grinned. “You’re nuts!”
“I love you, too!” he retorted, smiling broadly.
Sheena hobbled to the bathroom shaking icy drops from her hair.
Joey returned with more snow.
The cold felt wonderful in Sheena’s bare hands. “Mom,” She called, “I’m earning my chocolate! But first… I need a carrot!”
“Hot chocolate is for kids for kids who get to play outside in the snow, mom!” Sheena yelled back down the stairs, “I’m not cold. I don’t need warming up, and I don’t want hot chocolate!”
“Well, sweetie, you COULD have just said no thank you!” her mother replied cheerfully.
“Sorry, mom,” Sheena set her elbows back on the window sill and puffed a little frost cloud on the pane, “I’m just missing ALL the fun.” She drew a frowny face with her finger.
It was the first big snowfall of the year and all of the neighborhood kids were out sledding down the neighbor’s long driveway right beneath Sheena’s bedroom window.
“Stupid broken leg,” she grumbled.
“Well, maybe your brother would like some,” Mrs. B sauntered back into the kitchen and slid the window open, “How’s the sledding?” she called out to the kids on the snow covered driveway next door, “Is it good snowman-making snow? How come none of you are making a snowman?”
“MOM QUIT IT!” Shouted Sheena, mortified.
A few minutes later, she heard the front door open, and whispering, giggling and stomping off snow in the front hall. He brother was coming up the stairs.
“Oh you go away!” Sheena snapped without turning around. One second later, she wished she had. “GAHHHHHH! JOEY!!!!” she shrieked as her brother dumped a bucket of snow over her head.
“Lighten up, sis!” Joey laughed as Sheena frantically dusted the icy flakes off her neck and shirt, “I can’t let you miss ALL the fun!”
Max, Carly, and Morgan were in the upstairs bathroom, laughing. “What ARE you guys doing?” Sheena sputtered, reaching for her crutches?
“Well, since you can’t come out and play, we’re bringing the snow to you!” Carly chirped as she dumped a bucket of fluffy snow into the bathtub, “Come on, guys, let’s go get some more!” The three tramped down the stairs.
Shaking drops of icy water from her hair, Sheena hobbled into the bathroom and eased herself to the floor next to the bathtub. Joey followed her, opened the window, then clomped down the stairs with some beach towels to lay down in the front hall.
Sheena snorted, “You guys are nuts!” she called, biting her lip to conceal a budding grin as the kids returned with more and more snow for the tub.
“I love you, too!” Joey retorted with a grin.
Sheena pulled a towel from the bar, then started balling up the snow in the bathtub. The invigorating cold through the window and the icy snow in her bare hands felt wonderful.
“Everything ok up there?” Called Mrs. B.
“Yeah, mom,” Sheena replied, “I’m earning my hot chocolate… but first I’m gonna need a carrot!”
“Hot chocolate is for kids who get to play outside in the snow, mom!” Sheena yelled down the stairs, “I’m not cold, I don’t need warming up, and I don’t want hot chocolate!”
“Hot chocolate is also for Valentine’s Day,” her mother replied cheerfully. “You COULD have just said no thank you!”
“Sorry,” Sheena set her elbows on the sill. The first big snowfall of the year and everybody was out sledding on the driveway beneath her bedroom window. “I’m missing ALL the fun,” She puffed on the pane and drew a frowny face with her finger. “Stupid broken leg,” she grumbled.
Sheena heard the front door open, and the stomping off of snow in the hall. Her brother was coming up the stairs.
“Go away!” She snapped without turning around. A second later, she wished she had. “JOEY!!!!” she shrieked as her brother dumped handfuls of snow over her head, then headed for the center bathroom.
“Lighten up, sis!” he laughed as Sheena frantically dusted icy flakes from her neck and shirt, “I can’t let you miss ALL the fun!”
“What ARE you doing?” Sheena sputtered, reaching for her crutches.
“Since you can’t come out and play, I’m bringing the snow to you!” Joey chirped as he dumped a second bucket of fluffy snow into the bathtub.
Sheena bit her lip to conceal a budding grin “You’re nuts!” she called, as Joey tramped down the stairs.
“I love you, too!” he retorted with a wide smile.
Shaking icy drops from her hair, Sheena hobbled to the bathroom and eased herself to the floor next to the tub as Joey returned with more and more snow. The invigorating cold through the window and the icy snow in her bare hands felt wonderful.
“Everything ok up there?” Mrs. B. Called
“Yeah, mom,” Sheena replied, “ Thanks to Joey, I’m earning my chocolate… but first I’m gonna need a carrot!”
Another big THANK YOU to Susanna Leonard Hill for hosting this fantastic Valentine’s competition for the first time this year (I seriously don’t know how she does it!) and for once again encouraging me to write!
Sending out a big thank you to everyone who entered the competition. You all write so wonderfully well! I love reading as many stories as I can, even though I can’t always leave comments.
Now I need a few more hours in the day to get some drafts out of my head!
Working within the “weensie” constraints was a great experience for me last year. I had to give it a go again (and I couldn’t resist doing a quick little illustration for #Inktober 2015 as well).
As most of you know, I’m primarily an illustrator and have been spending most of my not-so-spare time this past year working up better illustration skills (my wee ones are still in preschool). Small writing challenges like this one give me exactly the right push to work on wordsmithing. Thank, again, Susanna Leonard Hill for hosting.
Here are the rules: Write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words costume, dark, and haunt.
She haunts the streets in search of treats. Her costume is a jaunty bell.
Green eyes that sparkle in the dark, The moon winks back and all is well.
She tumbles, nips, and almost trips A witch, two pirates, and a mouse.
They stroke her fur, laugh with her purr, As they progress from house to house.
But one by one they have to run, It will be bedtime all too soon.
Atop a Jack-O-Lantern’s back, She mews, then howls up at the moon.
This happened again last night before the kids put on their costumes. Little Kiki, the neighbor’s cat, is the inspiration for this poem (and my son’s costume – he adores her). She has been coming to our door all week to for Halloween treats.
Doin’ the happy dance this morning! The winners are posted. I won an honorable mention again! That’s a Halloweensie two-for two for me. And I’m listed first. I’ll totally take that.
A big THANK YOU to Susanna Leonard Hill for hosting this fantastic (and tough!) competition once again this year and making me believe I can write.
Congratulations to all the winners, my critique buddy, Johnelle DeWitt for placing as well for her super-creative main character, and to everyone who entered. Honestly, y’all are tough competition!
A little about Pumpkin Poags (Genus: Hobgoblin, Species: Pumpkin Poag):
Poags are related to Hobgoblins but generally live outdoors. They make their homes in pumpkins and gourds and might be found guarding pumpkin patches in the autumn. They prefer to live in the prettiest pumpkin in the patch. Be careful not to accidentally take that one home to carve into a jack-o-lantern.
Poags also differ a little in color and ear shape depending on where they live. For example, you might find a blue-eyed, white Poag living in a ghost pumpkin.
Poags can be playful, mischievous, and are often possessive. They enjoy crafting pleasant surprises and treats, but don’t upset them as they are very creative and often frightening tricksters.
The Challenge: Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays! Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words.
I started this challenge two weeks late because I was so busy with November stuff (like hosting Thanksgiving) that I missed the announcement. Because of Susanna’s boisterous encouragement (no pressure!), I promised I’d have… something. I couldn’t let her down.
So here it is with a very quickly sketched-out illustration and some backstory notes beneath.
Sometimes, a Pigeon
Nobody felt festive that December, not even the weather. Only days before Christmas, it was unusually warm in the city that should have already seen its first snowfall.
Danny sat on the stoop in front of his building sourly watching the crowds bustle past, narrowly but deliberately avoiding one another as they hurried through last-minute holiday errands.
A pigeon tumbled by, flapping frantically to free itself from a plastic milk-bottle ring stuck around it’s neck. Perhaps because he had nothing better to do—he certainly wasn’t feeling benevolent toward anyone let alone pigeons—Danny decided to rescue it.
The proprietor of the Christmas tree lot next door watched as Danny chased the pigeon around a lamp post for half an hour to no avail. Mr. Douglas, finally resolved to help.
After more unsuccessful laps around the lamp, Danny and Mr. Douglas were joined by a woman with accidental pink hair. Dulce was delighted to take a break from waiting on short-tempered diners.
The ridiculous ruckus inspired each passerby to set aside bags and bundles and join in the Great Pigeon Rescue, lunging, tripping, and colliding, until half of them were knocked to the sidewalk in gleeful piles of laughter.
The chaos was glorious. And, with each new laugh, the temperature dropped another degree.
Clumsily bumping a stately, loudly perfumed lady sideways, Dulce finally seized the pigeon. Danny slipped the ring off, and they let the bird go. Up it flew into the shivering clouds while the stately lady landed on Mr. Douglas in a shower of parcels.
Everyone held their breath as the stately lady’s eyes widened and her cheeks reddened.
“Are you all right?” Dulce asked.
Mrs. Latke’s surprise melted into a broad smile.
And then it began to snow. Boisterous peals of snow.
As people helped each other up, Mrs. Latke linked elbows with Dulce and whispered into her ear.
Dulce beamed and called, “Everyone! Come into the diner for hot chocolate. Mrs. Latke’s treat!”
Mr. Douglas was first inside. Everyone enthusiastically followed.
Danny paused at the door, shaking his head at the mirthful sky, and grinned.
Fresh from PiBoIdMo, I’d already been thinking about fleshing out a story idea I’d had about Thanksgiving (and I will absolutely still write that one). But I was already in the mood to write something about being too busy or preoccpied to be thankful. And I’ve been thinking about what the “Christmas Spirit” is all about. This translated quite easily to not feeling ready for the December holidays.
The story I started to write needed more like 700 words. Or a lot of pictures. I guess so far as I can tell, I write like an illustrator. In my mind, I’d managed to concoct a full city block of an apartment building, Christmas tree stand in a vacant parking lot, a diner, a Chinese restaurant, a grocery store, and a department store. Not necessarily in that order.
My cast of characters also included Mr. Douglas’s young daughter, a Salvation Army bell ringer, a young mother pushing a stroller, and a doorman (just to name a few). And of course everyone is in a foul mood. I described scenerios in my head where people were just rotten to each other. And of course, one by one, they each join in chasing the pigeon. I’m sure Alice Schertle might be able to write all this in 350 words (I counted and there are only 363 words in Little Blue Truck!) But I couldn’t. So I limited the story to just 6 main characters including the weather and the bird. Which is still kind of a lot.
I also wanted to make the characters inaccessible (except Danny) until they started to get into the spirit which is why I described them before naming them. With the length of the story, I’m not sure that actually translated. It probably is most noticable with Mrs. Latke.
Also, just for fun, the adult characters have full names. Mr. Fraser Douglas, Ms. Dulce Horner and Mrs. Penelope Latke
So I had a setting and characters but I kind of needed a plot that would make a good turnaround. I needed to make the weather laugh so hard that it changed and got in the mood too. I needed something ridiculous. And this very thing happened to me 22 years ago.
Yes I, myself, ridiculously chased a pigeon around the statue of Peter Pan in Hyde Park for a good long time trying to get a bottle ring off it’s neck. I was ultimately aided by an older gentleman and a woman in a house dress and what I truly still believe was accidentally pink hair. I wrote it down back then and that story also made it into this blog if you look for it. I’d started off pretty grumpy too, so I suppose that Danny is really me.