My Versatility Responsibility 2.0

I would've preferred congrats from Bert, but it'll do.
I would’ve preferred Bert on my napkins, but I suppose this will have to do.

I don’t usually do blog awards. It’s not that don’t appreciate receiving them – because I do — I just don’t think I update my blog frequently enough to dedicate posts to answering questions about myself. So a big part of me is inclined to thank the nominator and beg off.

But sometimes another part of me — the part who doesn’t have a new post ready this week — is inclined to say, “Hey, why not?”

That “Hey, why not?” inclination is also more likely to surface when some of my favorite people nominate me. Laurel Leigh and Jilanne Hoffman selected me for the Versatile Blogger Award and Tess from Let’s Cut the Crap nominated me for a blog meme.

Versatile Blogger nominees are supposed to write seven tidbits about themselves. The meme-ers are supposed to answer four specific questions about their writing.

Since answering a question about my writing is sort of a tidbit, I answered Tess’s four questions and tacked on three extra tidbits at the end. Done and done!

By the way, if the above didn’t spell it out clearly enough, I think very highly of these folks. Follow their blogs if you don’t already. They’re good people who all have interesting things to say.

Onward with the meme-ing!


What am I working on at the moment?

I have three projects I’m working on right now:

I am revising a picture book manuscript about a science-minded mouse.

I am revising a picture book manuscript about a cow that is not exactly a cow.

And, using my Susanna Hill writing contest entry, Goldilockup, as inspiration, I am writing a middle grade novel about a Great Escape-style jailbreak in Fairy Tale Forest. The story’s hero works the broiler at a Burger King.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Most writers are peculiar, but each peculiar person is peculiar in a unique way. Those unique peculiarities influence the work. For example, Laurie Halse Anderson and I both wrote picture books about Sarah Josepha Hale. Anderson’s book came out long before mine, but I had no knowledge of its existence when I wrote my story. Even though Anderson and I wrote about the same person, our two books could not be more different in both tone and content.

In other words, if you own Anderson’s book but not mine, buy mine, too. It’s different!

Why do I write what I do?

I used to write a lot of plays. I enjoyed writing them, and found some success. The problem was that I was drawn to flawed, cynical and occasionally immoral characters, which made me delve into the darker side of my soul — a sad and musty place in desperate need of a coat of paint a more comfortable place to sit.

I prefer my silly soul. Writing children’s books nurtures my silliness. And school visits bring out my silliness in spades.

How does my writing process work?

My writing schedule is not as regimented as I would like. I do, however, always put aside a good chunk of time every weekend to write. I also find time to write a couple of nights each workweek. Sometimes, if there’s a lull in my day job schedule, I’ll write a little then, too.

But let’s just keep that information between us, OK?

I almost exclusively compose on the computer. I do, however, sometimes write out ideas in longhand. I often doodle for inspiration. Sometimes I doodle during meetings, because meetings are useless.

Ahem. Let’s just keep that information between us, too, OK?

In fact, let’s pretend I never answered this question.

And, as promised, three other tidbits:

1. When my son is disciplined for saying something inappropriate in school, he is almost always repeating something I had said at home. No, he is not swearing; I never use foul language around children. He did, however, called one of his classmates a “sucker.” He announced that a daunting classroom assignment “will drive him to drink.” And, the day before his winter break, he decreed that The Elf on the Shelf story was “horse pucky.”

Despite all the teacher’s phone calls, I’m still not very good at censoring myself. I recently told Alex the story about how Archimedes developed his principle of buoyancy while sitting in the bathtub. I explained that Archimedes was so excited with his discovery that he leapt from the tub and ran through the streets naked, shouting, “Eureka! I’ve got it!”

“And do you know what Archimedes’ neighbors said?” I asked.

“No.” Alex replied.

“Archimedes! I can see your dingle!”

Alex then laughed for the next six hours.

So, yes, I expect to get a call from my son’s teacher sometime this week.

"Whasamatter? Jealous?" -- Archimedes, after being handed a towel
“Hey, I got it, so I flaunt it!”

2. When I was a freshman in college, I was in a drawing class filled with artists who got offended by everything. This was the late 1980s, the dawn of the PC era where short people were described as “vertically challenged” and lazy people were “differently motivated.” I tend not to seek out things that make me angry, so I found their zealous, relentless ire fascinating. I also found it amusing.

I occasionally liked to poke the hornet’s next. For example, one day I decided to sketch a giant, reverential portrait of Richard Nixon. It produced the expected outrage (“How could you draw a portrait of that…that monster!”) and I was amused.

About a year later, I was working in a local bookstore when Nixon’s book, In the Arena, was published. Nixon’s office was located just a few towns away from where I lived, so I was asked to drop off a box of books for the former president to sign. I did as I was told. I  also brought along my portrait bearing a note: “Could you please sign this?” He could and  did.

About 15 years later, Antiques Roadshow came to Atlantic City so I decided to bring along my signed Nixon portrait for an appraisal. In case you’re wondering, a Nixon/Allegra collaboration is worth about a thousand bucks.

Not too shabby.

You think you're so hot, eh? Well, I don't see Mike Allegra drawing a picture of you!
“You think you’re so hot, eh? Well, I don’t see Mike Allegra drawing a picture of you!”

3. My wife, Ellen, is one of the most moral and honest people I know. However, I live in constant fear that one day I’ll come home from work to discover that she has kidnapped a wombat from an area zoo.

Believe me, she loves wombats more than most people love wombats — and I’m worried that this love will someday give her a rap sheet. Pray for us!

Take me home, Ellen! All I need is your looooove!
“Take me home, Ellen! All I need is your looooove!”


So there you have it! Thanks again, Laurel, Jilanne and Tess! And thanks also to all the other people who have nominated me for blog awards in the past. I am very grateful.

So, in the spirit of this post, tell me a tidbit about yourself in the comments! C’mon, be a sport. 

68 Replies to “My Versatility Responsibility 2.0”

  1. Lots of interesting and fun stuff here Mike, but I am particularly amused by your son saying that a classroom assignment would drive him to drink! I bet the teacher had a good chuckle over that one. I’ve revealed so many tidbits about myself on my own blog, and on other people’s blogs, it’s hard to think of something new, hang on…I’m thinking…keep hanging…still…stil…oh ok!…no not that…hang on…hang on…hang on…got it! Wait…no.

    1. This year the teachers see the humor in an eight-year-old acting like a barfly. Last year…not so much.

      And come oooon, Vanessa! Everyone knows that you are a layered, complex person! You have tidbits to spare! Don’t be stingy.

  2. I always knew you were The Awesome, Mike. I might not remember your name half the time, but the awesome always registered just fine. 😉

    My bit: When I was seven or eight, I tried to fly by tying strings to some of the ducks on our not-quite-a-farm, just like James did with the Giant Peach and the seagulls.

    The ducks, who were Not Amused, ended up tying me to a fence.

  3. Loved it, but I do feel for you son’s teachers, having to be stern and keep a straight face when of course all they want to do is laugh. A tidbit you ask? Hmmm, I once hitchhiked alone to a bus station in South Africa because some of the young folk I was doing community theatre with missed their last bus. We then all came back to where I was living and they made up beds on the living room floor from whatever cushions and blankets we could find…the best spontaneous sleep over party ever! Hugs, H xxx

      1. Oh, that kind of anecdonte! Errrr…no:-) But I did refuse to do a biology test for a teacher I didn’t like because she’d pointed out that I was still wearing leather shoes so how could I be a proper vegetarian. Actually she didn’t know I’d not done the test, I covered up my paper and sat over it as if I was concentrating and handed in blank paper mixed in with all the others. Then, when she was handing back the tests I pretended to be shocked and upset that she’d lost my paper and she was sooooo apologetic! When you’re as trustworthy as me (!) you can get away with quite good lies sometimes! That was fun:-)

  4. Great award post–fun to learn these things about you. And don’t worry; I won’t tell anyone you’re slacking off at work. 😉

    A tidbit about me? Hmm, after posting about using a Turkish toilet in Paris, what’s left to share?…

  5. Your three tidbits are wonderful! I can’t decide which one is my favourite. They all made me laugh out loud.
    As for tidbits, I’m pretty transparent on my blog. It’s hard to think of something I haven’t already written about. OK, not my favourite but it keeps coming into my head blocking everything else out, so I might as well. I once saved someones life from a runaway vehicle. It was back in the days of “Maxi” coats and “mini” skirts. The truth is I saw the car coming at us and I turned to run for my life. I tripped over my long coat and accidentally pushed someone else out of the way. The car landed where she had been standing.

    1. Thanks, Julie! And congratulations again on an amazing cover for Susanna’s contest!

      See? This is why I was so unhappy to hear that you didn’t do a cover for Goldilockup!

      *turns and quietly weeps in a corner*

  6. I believe your very creative son has a future as a comedian and you can be his writer! LOL! Love the story about Nixon…how cool to actually meet a former President. I don’t care what he did….it actually isn’t any worse than Presidents before and for God’s sake….AFTER him! Poor guy just happen to get caught! Anyhoo…. an interesting tidbit about me? I can roll my tongue? No? Ok…how about…..I can sing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious backwards! Dociousaliexpisticfragicalirepus! I think that is how you spell it…….. 🙂

    1. As a (self-proclaimed) history geek, I have always been fascinated by Nixon. His story has all the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy.

      As for your tidbit, I think I’m going to need video proof of your backward singing ability.

      1. Uhhmmm……No, you are just going to have to take my word for it!! LOL! And I totally agree about Nixon being a Shakespearean tragedy! You are such a geek.. 🙂

  7. Great tidbits! The one about Nixon says a lot about your character. I love it! So glad you decided to be a little silly…you are good at it!

    Tidbit…when I was in my late teens my boyfriend decided to take me on a surprise date, meaning he wouldn’t tell me where we were going. As we drove we passed a marquis along the highway I looked up to see who was playing, some guy I had never heard of…Rich Little. Just making conversation, I asked if he’d ever heard of him and he said he was a well known impressionist. As it turned out…that was our destination.

    We saw the show, had a great time…and by the way, he does an excellent Richard Nixon…and afterwards went backstage to get an autograph. I’m standing in the line and I am up next when my boyfriend tells Mr. Little that I am too embarrassed to ask but I want a kiss. Completely taken aback, I beg off and say that I do not want one and that he is just teasing me. Mr. Little says, “it’s okay honey…I’ll give you a kiss.” Now everyone in the line is watching me, Rich little is getting more and more insistent that he’d give me a kiss. “No, no…” I’m desperately trying to find a way out of this and pretty much just walked off. My boyfriend looks at me and says, “Why didn’t you kiss him? You could have told everyone you kissed Rich Little.” I looked at him with a big grin on my face and said, ” or I could say…Rich little wanted to kiss me…but I refused.” 😉

  8. As always fun stuff to brighten up the humdrumedness of the everyday. Hmm, tidbit, tidbit–let me reach into the wondrous, wayback file. And here it is: what? The drawer is stuck. Fudge sticks. Once it’s unstuck I’ll be sending you that tidbitzer.

  9. Very interesting, as they used to say on Laugh-in. Love the story about your Nixon sketch. And your wife and son have my sympathies, your wife for falling in love with a creature that looks like a cross between a bear and a gerbil, and your son for doing his best impersonation of his father for an unsympathetic audience.

    Something interesting about me? hmmmm… I was wandering around Tiananmen Square a month before the massacre in 1989. At that time, Beijing was still filled with bicycles. Artists, students and political satirists were speaking fairly openly. What a difference a month makes.

  10. HAHAHAHA!!! I love your tidbits! Hmm… Mine… Well, my dad’s great-grandpa actually lived in the Philadelphia Zoo. He wasn’t a monkey, but he might’ve smelled like one. 😉

      1. I think technically he was a care taker because he took care of the grounds not the animals. The stone house they lived in is still in the zoo, but you’re not allowed to go in it. Our family got to take a tour of it two summers ago because our family used to live there. 🙂

  11. Ha ha. There aren’t enough awards out there to bestow on you the honor you deserve. I knew you were an interesting fellow and am not surprised your son is a chip off the old block (I’m borrowing because I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.). I bet you kept your teachers in stitches when you were his age. 😀

    I’ve never done anything heroic, or adventurous…no wait! I just remembered, I went to New York to the World’s Fair when I was seventeen. Alone. My mother begged, bribed and carried on but I was going no matter what and I did. Lucky for me, I somehow made it home in one piece. It was a bus tour for heavens sake and all the adults doted on me..

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Tess. And, again, thanks for the bloggy honor you bestowed upon me.

      I like your tidbit very much. In fact, I believe a World’s Fair post is in order. Do consider it.

  12. This is wonderful! You’re not a Capricorn are you? We have our giddy goat side and our wallow fishy side lol. My kids copy me too, yikes! Nixon portrait wow!

    1. I’m a Sagittarius according to the calendar if not my personality. Sagittarius folks are supposed to be adventurous and outgoing, but that’s not my bag at all.

      And yes, the Nixon thing was a lovely little coincidence. I thought my portrait was kinda crude, but the president liked it.

      1. My sister is Sagittarius and very outgoing but can be very moody too though I do believe she’s grown out of that 😉

  13. I must say I knew little about you, being only my 2nd trip to your lovely blog. Now, I could say I know more than I ever expected to know. I love your son’s expressions at school. “Horse pucky” is a good expression. I think you will be meeting his teachers and principles for years to come.

    Not much to say about myself. Oh, I was once in a coma for 4 months and was not to have woken up. You can draw your own conclusion on how that story ended. 🙂

      1. “Please tell my your tidbit is horse pucky.” I’m sorry. I know children’s authors have quirks, so I will assume you are asking why. I didn’t call it horse pucky. I just thought you could decide for yourself, if I survived the coma or if I did not, as the doctors expected. I hope you chose the first option. I do not believe I am a ghost, but I could check. How do I do that, checking to see if you are a ghost or just a fan of kids lit?

      2. No, dahling, what I meant by my “horse puckey” was, “Please tell me you are kidding about the coma thing.”

        I suppose you aren’t kidding — and my goodness! Have you ever shared the circumstances behind your coma before? Is it something you’d be willing to share?

  14. I may laugh for six hours over Ellen and the Wombat! I love blog hops and just felt like a girl breaking a chain letter this week. 🙂 Fun. I didn’t follow the rules!

  15. Great tidbits. A bit of tid and a bit of t(h)at. Clever, revealing, and introspective (ie, your reason to write children’s books instead of hard-edged dark plays). My tidbit then, of why I write romantic suspense, instead of, say, horror/mystery is that…., oh wait, this is not an R-rated site. Never mind.

  16. Hahahaha this was way too much fun! I don’t think I really knew what a wombat looked like. The Boyfran sent me a photo of one in mid-leap just last week and I was all “WHAT IS THAT I NEED ONE.” In other words…. tell your wife to buy black gloves and I’ll be calling her soon.

    1. I will have no part of this wombat larceny!

      Goat larceny, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. So if you’ll excuse me, Madame Weebles and I need to visit the Staten Island Zoo in order to give a goat named Annabelle a new home.

  17. LOL! Mike, the Nixon and Wombat reveals were too much.

    My husband probably lives in constant fear that I will run away to a cow farm one day. They are the one animal I haven’t eaten since I was a kid, when the cow romance began. On my blog you may have met Ken Follett the cow, my oversized stuffed animal since high school that I still sleep with to this day. He shares the bed with us, and miraculously my husband loves me in spite of this and we will be celebrating our nine year anniversary next week.

  18. A science minded mouse, is there any other kind? I love that! I love reading about your writing habits (is that weird?). A tidbit about myself: I once was hired to teach research at a school only to find that they did not have computers or a library… an interesting challenge to say the least!

      1. I changed the subject of the course, haha! It became a Philosophy of Research course- we explored philosophers’s take on objectivity and subjectivity etc. Given that there were no research materials I had to be creative with the lessons and it ended up being a lot of fun!

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