Celebrate Dueling Doodlers!

Remember that Celebrate Kittens doodle I did a couple of weeks back?

It looked like this!

It looked like this!

Well, because Jilanne Hoffmann’s son is a fine, upstanding young fellow, he doodled me a reply. Head on over to her blog and check out his awesome art, why don’cha?

(Oh, and I’m turnin’ off the comments here. Go comment over there!)

Celebrate Dueling Doodlers!

Waffles With Writers: Vanessa-Jane Chapman



Welcome to the fourth installment of my interview show, Waffles with Writers, where I chat with a working writer over a nice, waffle-centric meal.

Today’s guest is the lovely Vanessa-Jane Chapman. She loosely calls herself a writer and actress, although she is currently devoting virtually every spare moment of her life on earning a master’s degree in education while working at a university on a project to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Her first brush with writing fame was at nine years old when her poem about autumn was selected for publication in her school magazine. Since then she has been a runner-up in short story, screenwriting, and poetry contests, and has had several magazine articles published. She does a little bit of singing, a little bit of baking, and a little bit of stand-up comedy. She has also set the world on fire with her advice about fudge

Vanessa Pizza

She also likes pizza.

Vanessa! Welcome! You are my very first international brunch guest! You must be exhausted with the jet lag and all. Sit. Eat. What toppings would you like on your waffles?

Ooh, gosh, I don’t know, I’m terrible with food decisions. I always wish I’d picked what the person next to me picked. So you pick what you want, and I’ll have the same. No wait, I’ll have strawberries and whipped cream.

It seems only right that I begin our chat with an international-ish question. What is the most quintessentially English thing about you?

Probably the difficulty I have with complaining in restaurants. These blueberry and ice-cream topped waffles are delicious by the way, just what I asked for.

Good. ‘Cause you’re gonna eat it and like it. Let’s talk writing. You’re a regular contributor to The Canterbury Index and other magazines. What are you working on these days?

Well I was a regular magazine contributor, but other things have overtaken me of late and I haven’t sent them anything for ages. The only things I’m writing at the moment, aside from blog posts, are essays. Oh, there is a poetry competition coming up soon though that I have previously been shortlisted in, so I plan to write and submit something for that, you know, for old times’ sake.

Ah. Well, since this is Waffles With Writers, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. No that’s unfair. Let me finish my coffee; then I’ll show you the door. Tell me a bit about your day job.

I’m part of the central team for a partnership of universities and schools, which works with students from disadvantaged backgrounds. I’m a communications manager, so I deal with how we communicate across the partnership and beyond (yes, rather like Buzz Lightyear). So that includes maintaining our website and Twitter, writing a fortnightly newsletter, keeping abreast of relevant education news and disseminating appropriately, you know, stuff like that.

That’s fantastic! I also like how your use the word “fortnight.” How Britishy. Tell me a bit about the first time you tried stand-up. What prompted you to give it a try?

I had wanted to try it for a long time, so when my acting agent, who also manages stand-up comedians, offered some of us general actors the opportunity to each have a little five-minute stand-up slot at a comedy evening in a pub, I took it! I did this twice. It was very scary, but really great when everyone laughed a lot. I’m glad I did it, but I don’t really have any desire to do more of it.

On your blog you have spoken out on behalf of vermin such as head lice and seagulls. Have you ever considered expanding on this theme?

All the time, I can think of little else. In fact I’m going to do a post about cilantro.

Cilantro is vermin?

It’s vermin to me I’m afraid. I know that’s controversial, but I don’t mind being controversial in the herb department.

You are also a gifted actress. What was the worst part your have ever had to play?

Well I’ve never really had any horrible parts. However, I spent a few years living in Las Vegas in my late 20s/early 30s, and I was in a few murder mystery dinner theatre shows in casinos. It should have been fun, and doing the performance part was fun, but while the people were eating we had to mingle and interact with them in character, and being the introvert that I am I really struggled with that; having to interrupt people while they’re eating and chat to them. I was very uncomfortable with that. I’m not a good mingler at any time.

Can we expect another film role where you show off your uvula?

If the price is right, sure.

I have to ask this. Once upon a time you took a picture of a softball-sized spider egg sack hanging in your garden shed. It alarmed me to my very core. Did you burn the building down?

No I didn’t, but one day I went in there and the whole web had fallen to the ground, and there was nothing in it. The alien spider creature had vanished. Where it went, nobody knows.

It’s probably in your house, so I’m going to politely decline your invitation to visit. Well, thanks so much for stopping by, Vanessa! Now that you’re in New Jersey, is there any place you would like to visit before you begin your journey home?

Ah yes, could you take me to a few of those well-known New Jersey places that I know all about already without having to quickly search on Google… Hang on a second, OK? I just have to go and do something… OK, I’m back. I would like to visit Cape May please. Also, can we have lunch one of the many diners your state has to offer, I knew already that New Jersey is sometimes referred to as the diner capital of the world (who doesn’t know that right?). Also the Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari with its numerous rides, fun-packed events, and other entertainment options, the Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari stands out as one of the best family-friendly attractions in New Jersey (I knew that already).

Thanks Mike this has been a fun trip! NOW can I have one of your doodles?

No. But you can have another waffle. And the rest of these blueberries. I think they’ve gone bad.  

Celebrate Kittens! (Oh, you gotta be kidding me!)

And it has come to this.


As many longtime readers of this blog know, I am not a big fan of cats. I’m allergic, I keep rodents as pets, and feral cats keep pooping on my lawn.

So why did I ever draw the above doodle? Extortion.

Last year, Jilianne Hoffmann demanded it as a quid pro quo for promoting my noble organization, H.A.C.K.S. (Humans Against Celebrity Kid Stories)* on her blog. I, with great reluctance, complied.

After I drew the doodle and sent it to the Hoffmanns, however, something strange happened. Jilanne’s son, Liam (the fellow who wanted that cat pic), and I developed a correspondence. In so doing, I slowly learned that he and the entire Hoffmann family – despite their cat fancier instincts – are lovely people.

This knowledge has helped me to grow significantly as a person. And I am grateful.

As a sign of this newfound friendship, I offered to draw the Hoffmann’s another doodle.

Jilanne replied: “Oh, you are too kind! Liam is very excited. When I asked him if he had a request, he immediately grinned and said, ‘a very naughty kitten to go with the naughty stamp-shredding cat.’”

Are you people trying to get back on my Enemies List?

Fine! Here! And no more!

Innocent Kitten

*By the way, you should join H.A.C.K.S.

It’s free and fun! No salesmen will call!

To learn all about it, click here! To join the cause, click here!


The lovely and talented Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting another writing contest and, well, I always like a good contest.

The theme of this one is a Fractured Fairy Tale in 400 words or less.


Crime doesn't pay.

Crime doesn’t pay.


“Someone has been sleeping in my bed!” exclaimed Papa Bear.

“Someone has been sleeping in my bed!” exclaimed Mama Bear.

“Someone has been sleeping in my bed!” exclaimed Baby Bear. “And there she is!”

At that, Goldilocks awoke with a shriek, jumped out the window, and ran away as fast as she could.

But it wasn’t fast enough. Before she could disappear into the forest, a large hand clamped down on her shoulder and slapped on the cuffs.

The man was in uniform. He scowled at Goldilocks and spoke into his crackling walkie talkie. “I got her,” he growled. “I’ll be downtown in ten.”

Then he turned to Golidlocks. “You’re coming with me, blondie.”

“What? Why?”

“Breaking and entering, grand theft porridge, vandalism, squatting… You’re a regular crime wave, kid.”

And into the squad car she went.

“You punks are all alike,” the officer said once they arrived at the station. “You always think you’re the hero.”

He pointed to a boy getting his mug shot. “See that kid? He thinks he’s a hero, too. But he’s been charged with murder, burglary, and chopping down a giant beanstalk without a forestry permit. He ain’t no hero, girlie, and neither are you.”

Goldilocks was shoved into a holding cell. She was terrified by the lowlifes who surrounded her. There was a woodsman who practiced stomach surgery without a license. Pigs who attempted to boil their dinners alive. Prince charmings found carrying unregistered swords and daggers. Billy goats accused of assault and battery.

It was a motley crew.

“What’s going to happen now?” Goldilocks asked the officer.

“Well, first we gotta catch up with Cinderella and Snow White,” he replied.

“What are they wanted for?” she asked.

“Oh,” the man replied, “we’ll come up with something.”

At that moment, another officer shouted in triumph. “We got ‘em!”

A joyous “Whoop!” went up throughout the precinct as Snow White and Cinderella were booked, photographed, fingerprinted, and tossed in the cell with the others.

“A good day’s work, gentlemen!” said the police captain emerging from his office. He wasn’t exactly a police captain, though.

He was a Big Bad Wolf.

The officers then pulled off their masks.




Goldilocks and the other prisoners shuddered at the sight.

It was official: Fairy Tale Forest was under new management.

Don’t Ask Me What Zombies Have to Do With It. I Have No Idea.

Try shuffling this deck.

Good luck shuffling this.

A recent study suggests that disorganized people are more creative than organized people.

In other words, I am the least creative person in my house.

My seven-year-old son is at the top of the creative heap. He achieves this by creating creative heaps all around his room. His invented games are, I admit, ingenious. Sadly, they also require hundreds of parts from dozens of different sources.

Rocks? Check.

Marbles? Check.

Individual Legos, handpicked from different sets? Check.

Every refrigerator magnet in the house? Check.

The battleships from Battleship? Check.

Broken toys – including that whoopee cushion with a hole in it that his dad told him to throw out last year? Seriously, boy, what’s the point of a whoopee cushion that can’t make any noise? Check!

It should come as little surprise that my son and I also have very different interpretations of the word “straighten,” as in, “Straighten your room.”

My “straighten” is defined as, “Put every single solitary thing away forever.” His definition is, “Consolidate the six or eight smallish piles of stuff into one, four-foot-tall pile of stuff. Then shove that pile of stuff into the mathematical center of the room.”

But, hey, the boy is creative. One day, Alex noticed that war (the card game, that is) was an excruciating bore. Many, many years ago, when I made this same discovery, I abandoned war forever and did something tidy. Alex is cut from a different cloth, however; he decided to take a crack at improving the game. He searched the house for every deck of cards we have and became the sole inventor of Nine-Deck Zombie Super War 4000.  To play, you need five decks of regular playing cards, two Uno decks (one being a dog-eared deck from the early1980s and the other a contemporary waterproof deck that you can play in the tub) a deck of war cards featuring characters from the movie Cars, and The Mad Magazine Card Game.

The rules and scoring system are, I think, a bit too involved, complicated, and convoluted to mention here (think 43-Man Squamish). I will say, however, that it takes about 15 minutes to purge all of the decks of the unnecessary cards and nearly another ten minutes to shuffle the massive, irregular deck that remains. Once you’re done playing the game, it takes another 15 minutes to put all the cards back where they belong.

The actual game takes about maybe four minutes.

But I am surprised to say that I don’t mind any of this, really. Nine-Deck Zombie Super War 4000 caters to our strengths: Alex gets to stimulate his creative instincts by making up rules and creating random piles of cards, and I get to sate my OCD urges by sorting the cards into rigid, properly sanctioned piles.

And of course there is that Father And Son Thing. I love that Father And Son Thing.

Once the game is over, Alex will help put the cards back in their proper piles without complaint, but mostly he keeps me company while I take on the lion’s share of the work. Straightening up is what I do best, after all. And organizing things while chatting with my boy puts me in the happiest of my happy moods.

Sometimes while we peek under the couch for stray cards, we even kick around a few picture book story ideas. Because, well, according to documented research, I need all the help I can get.

Alfred E

The Winning Doodle REVEALED!

The timing of my Win A Doodle Contest could not have been better.

For the past week, I haven’t been able to write well. I blame Daylight Savings Time; ever since we sprang forward, I’ve been spending my days half asleep.

Fortunately, I can doodle while half asleep. So I was able to honor the wishes of Jenion, the Win a Doodle Contest’s Big Winner.

Jenion, an avid cyclist, asked for something bicycle-related. Well, my friend, your wish is my command:


Be sure to check your mail, as I will be sending you the original drawing soon!

Take care, everyone!

And the Doodle Winner Is…

Ooh, I can't wait!

Ooh, I can’t wait!

OK, folks, you blew me away. I just didn’t think a chance to win a personalized doodle would be all that popular.

But man, oh, man!

If you don’t count the time I was Freshly Pressed, this doodle contest is the most commented-upon post that you have ever commented upon.

I am dazzled, tickled, flattered, and a touch verklempt.

And today is the big day to see who gets the Grand Prize!


All the ballots were put into the crumpled voting hat.

Then the completely fair and impartial judge was brought in to do his duty. (Well, he’s almost impartial; he was rooting for Madame Weebles, as evidenced by his cat shirt. But impartiality aside, he is completely fair.)

He mixed the ballots well…


…and he reached for a card.

Boy picking the card

And the winner is…

Boy I got the winner right here

It is…

Boy Pensive

It. Is.

Boy Jeepers!

Boy Aaargh!


Boy the winner


Um. Ahem. I mean, TA DAAAA!

Congratulations, Jenion! You win a personalized doodle on the subject of your choice!

All you have to do is go up to the menu item that says “Write Me a Note” and, well, write me a note.


Thanks to everyone who entered! And don’t be bummed if you didn’t win. Since there is clearly such a demand for doodles, this will not be the last time you’ll have a chance to win one.

Take care and be well!