Driving back from the Central California SCBWI Writers Day yesterday, I recounted my most embarrassing moment to a travel companion. She howled with laughter, “That would make a great story!” Using the philosophy that it can’t be embarrassing if you own it and use it, here goes.
In late October of 1993, we checked into the newly opened Treasure Island Hotel and Casino for the wedding of a colleague of my husband. The actual ceremony took place across the street in a little chapel that disappeared when another behemoth hotel and casino went up in 2007. The reception was held in a cavernous banquet room in Treasure Island. Sitting in the sea of round tables, seating ten each, we waited for the bride and groom to appear. And we sat. Until I couldn’t hold off a trip to the ladies room any longer.
Now, I should explain something here. Due to some feet problems, I was wearing flats. Generally, I hate wearing flats because I’m vertically challenged to begin with, and feel short and squat, especially in crowds of tall people, which these all seemed to be. This was also the era of white pantyhose. I wore a pink skirt and jacket, with a white shell top, white hose and black flats. I looked like a dish of strawberry ice cream. In retrospect I shouldn’t have left the hotel room dressed that way, and the white shell was damp under the arms because even in late October, Las Vegas is too hot to be walking outside dressed like that.
So, I slipped off to the bathroom via a side door. When I returned, the hallway in front of the door was empty and only the soft music of the background track echoed in the hall. I opened the door to sneak back to my seat unseen. As I stepped into the ballroom, a spotlight flashed on and lit me up like a little pink Christmas tree, then the music began – Blue Suede Shoes I think. My face flushed a bright red and my eyes dropped to my white legs and black shoes.
They had been expecting an Elvis Impersonator, and instead two hundred or so sets of eyes stared and laughed at my small, startled figure. I could have died right there, but I gamely walked to my seat and sat down. My husband filled in the Elvis details as I tried to regain some sense of honor. I will always remember the panic that gripped my chest and forced the breath from my lungs when the spotlight hit me. I think today I could have managed a little soft shoe and a flourished “ta-da!”
I’m excited to tell you that I’ll be speaking to the Pleasant Valley School 5th and 6th grade class on October 16. I can’t wait to share what I do and hopefully inspire them all to write – write – write!
I’m pleased to say that my short story, A Letter on a Train, has been published in The Quill Magazine. This is my first fiction published since the 1970’s when I won a creative writing contest sponsored by the Detroit News and Scholastic.
Words have power. The ability to transcribe stories and knowledge into words transformed our ancestors into the human beings we are today. Words educate, influence, enslave and heal. That’s why it is such a tragedy when words are misused. Lately the word ‘Great’ has been abused and rendered a mockery by the political operatives in our federal government. So, as a public service, I’m offering alternative words.
At the risk of sounding elitist, Roget’s International Thesaurus, a book you should have learned how to use in high school English class, has 278 synonyms for the word Great. Knocking the count down for a few overlaps, there are at least 270 other words besides Great to use to help your reader or listener understand meaning. If books aren’t your thing, thesaurus.com has 136 alternatives.
Slang words like: dandy, marvy, crackerjack, stunning, and serious words like: important, consequential, momentous, significant, considerable and substantial, all do more to help us understand what you are trying to say. Using one word to describe everything is like using one crayon to color. The world is much richer when we use the whole of a language to communicate.
So, the next time some high minded big-wig throws out a corker of a word gaffe, you can snort at their colossal failure in using American English.
I’m thrilled to have won a case of Cinquain Cellars flagship wine, Cinquain, in the latest poetry contest. For those not familiar with a cinquain, it is a five line poem with defined syllables in each line. The first is 2, then 4, 6, 8, and the last back to 2. 2-4-6-8-2
Here is the poem that will be on the back label of the bottles when they are released later this year.
Cinquain melody plays
Harmony crescendos inside
Cinquain Cellars is definitely worth checking out. I love their wine and they are great people.
My mirror reflects a woman,
five feet tall, grey hair,
age spots daubed with foundation,
dusted with powder,
yet still visible.
Ancestors from Britain, Ireland, and Alsace Lorraine
fill my gene pool
But they don’t tell you who I am.
Once the title on my business card
defined the square footage of my office,
the quality of my chair,
the level of respect I was afforded,
but it did not tell you who I am.
Height, age, titles,
allow you to lump me in groups,
bucket me in stereotypes,
but that’s your issue,
that’s not who I am.
I am my dreams.
The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson was published in 1958, my birth year. So, I am surprised to learn this is a Christmas classic and loved by millions. I’ve never heard of it. More shocking to a writer diving into the middle grade children’s literature area, is that this book won the Newbery Award, an esteemed children’s literature honor.
This surprises me because the story contradicts several “rules” of kid lit that I’ve picked up over the last three years in books and workshops: the main character must be a child slightly older than the age of the reader you are writing for, the main character must solve his or her own problems in the story and the adults, if any, in the story must not make everything happen for the child. This leads me to believe that the story was written more for the adults who are reading to children.
I’m bolstered in this thought, by the recognition that Despicable Me, an animated movie with evil villains who attempt to steal the moon, has the same plot; single curmudgeon takes on three small children, learns to love and ends up with a family.
I wonder if the Family Under the Bridge would be considered for publication in today’s environment.