Family and/or Autobiography, On Blogging, On Writing

Am I Enthusiastic? Apparently So!

The lovely and talented Britt Skrabanek recently accused me of being enthusiastic about life. I wasn’t sure if she was correct in this assessment. (My morning coffee hadn’t quite kicked in.)

Then she invited me to write a post for her popular monthly blog feature, “The Life Enthusiast Chronicles.” Suddenly I discovered that I was enthusiastic! By golly, Britt was right!

So that’s where I’m hanging out this week. Come on over and leave a comment or three. I’ll bring scones.

Britt Skrabanek

Last month Zen from Zen Scribbles reminded us never to lose sight of the child in ourselves, to enjoy things that makes us happy—no matter what they are, no matter hold old we are. In my monthly series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, magnificent human beings from all over talk about what makes them excited to be alive.

Today I’m stoked to bring you guys a New Jersey native, Mike Allegra from heylookawriterfellow. Hands down, Mike’s blog is one of the funniest and most entertaining blogs I read on a regular basis. He puts a humorous spin on day-to-day experiences that will make you laugh your ass off. Seriously, I’ve spit out my coffee in the mornings on numerous occasions. 

Beyond that, Mike is just a great family guy with a great talent for writing (and doodling). I’m so glad that he took me up on the Life Enthusiast offer. Enjoy.

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Book News

Post-Turkey Debriefing

The month is over, right?
I so sleepy.

First things first: an apology.

Over the past few weeks I have been pretty terrible about reading and replying to other people’s blogs. I’ve even been slow to respond to comments on my blog. I am sorry about that.

November was nutty — and most of this nuttiness was self-imposed. All month long I was shamelessly promoting Sarah Gives Thanks at book stores and schools. When I wasn’t doing that, I was trying to conjure up 30 new picture book ideas for PiBoIdMo. (Must you really do this in November, Tara?) Meanwhile, at my day job, I was running up against hard and fast deadlines for the winter issue of The Lawrentian, the magazine I edit.

But my exhaustion was mixed with healthy servings of exhilaration, too. Thanks to the salesmanship of David Gardner, Sarah’s wonderful illustrator, he and I were interviewed on Santa Fe Public Radio. We turned out to be a good team; David was the calm and steady Yin to my blathering, rambling Yang.

Wanna hear our lovely voices? Take a listen.

I also had the chance to be a guest author at my boy’s school, which was wonderful. I did my dog and pony show all day long for the first, second, third and fourth graders. The PTA pre-sold a big stack of books (including one copy in Braille!), and I proved to hundreds of children that grownups can (and should) be goobers.

And I signed every last one of 'em!
Thanks PTA!

Also, a number of lovely people out there interviewed me or reviewed my book. The folks listed below are not just great people, but great bloggers as well. You should follow them if you don’t already.

Vanessa Chapman
Susanna Leonard Hill
Catherine Johnson
Wendy Lawrence
Tara Lazar
Susan Rocan
Nancy Tandon

I sure hope I didn’t overlook anyone. If I did, please yell at me in the comments.

Like Sarah Hale, I am so very thankful to all of you.

I’ll be back in the blogging swing of things by next week. In the meantime, take care and enjoy your leftovers!

On Writing

Dragon Tales

This is Boris.
This is Boris. He bakes cookies.

One afternoon, I picked up Alex from school to find him holding a small, stuffed dragon. “Oh, how cute,” I thought, as he approached. Then I got a look at Alex’s face. At once I recognized that the existence of this plushy pal was, at best, a mixed blessing.

So to lighten to mood, I put on my Happy Dad face.

“Well!” I exclaimed with a wide smile. “Who’s this cute little guy?” I pet the dragon’s head.

“Boris,” Alex replied with a level stare. The stare spoke volumes. The stare said, “Wipe that grin off your face, buddy! You think this is funny? You think you’re being funny, Funny Guy? Well, trust me; you, sir, are NOT being funny.”

It turns out that neither Alex nor I like Happy Dad all that much. Happy Dad is a phony. So I put Happy Dad away, hopefully forever.

“Boris is homework, right?” I asked.

It was as if I had lit a fuse.

“Yes!” he exploded. “I gotta take him on an adventure! And then I gotta draw a picture! And then I gotta write a story about it! AND I have to do it by tomorrow! AND I have a math sheet! AND I have to do classwork I didn’t finish!”

I’ll say it right now. My boy gets too much homework. The little guy is only in first grade. When I was in first grade I whiled away entire afternoons drawing faces on my toes and using them to act out elaborate kitchen sink dramas. Alex never has time for such foolishness. All he does is work, work, work.

“Alright,” I said. “Let’s make this stupid thing as quick and painless as possible.”

On the car ride home, we kicked around possible Boris adventures.

“How about Boris hunts for buried treasure?” I said. “That could be fun.”

“How about he makes cookies,” said Alex.

“Or maybe Boris can get kidnapped,” I said. “Your essay could be a ransom note!”

“How about he makes cookies,” said Alex.

“Or, or, or, he could be accused of a crime he didn’t commit! Maybe your Bed Entourage thinks he killed Froggy and they put Boris on trial. But Froggy isn’t really dead, she’s just asleep.”

“How about he makes cookies,” said Alex.

Alex made other suggestions, too. Alex suggested that after Boris baked cookies, Alex could eat the cookies. Alex also suggested that there was NO WAY he was going to write more than three sentences.

“Well, if it’s an involved adventure, you might need to make it longer,” I said.

“I only have to do three,” Alex said.

“Yes, sure, but you might want to do more,” I said. “Oh! I have another idea for an adventure! How about Boris…”

And here I had my epiphany. At that moment I realized that I was the one who was preventing this assignment from being “as quick and painless as possible.”

Unlike me, my son is not a fan of writing. Not at all. For Alex, writing is something akin to torture. In my zeal, I forgot that Alex is not me.

Of course he doesn’t wanna do more than three sentences, why would he? And why, with his workload, would I suggest otherwise?

I had apparently replaced Happy Dad with Oblivious Dad. So I put Oblivious Dad away, hopefully forever.

“I like your cookie idea,” I said.

Ellen and Alex (and Boris) baked cookies. Then Alex and I worked on the Boris drawing and crafted three brief-and-to-the-point sentences. It wasn’t easy for Alex, but it was, as I  promised, quick and painless.

Unlike me, Alex is passionate about math and science. Making up math problems and messing around with snap circuits is the Alex equivalent of my childhood’s Big Toe Theatre. So, once his homework was finally done, he went off to play with Ellen’s calculator.

Maybe Alex will learn to love writing someday. That would be nice. I sure would love to share that interest with him. But I’ll be fine if Alex takes his math and science interests to the next level, too. All I want to do is support him — and make sure I don’t force my own passions on him.

And who knows? Maybe someday Alex will find a happy medium between math and writing. After he went off to play, I heard him refer to the calculator as “Mr. Calculator.” And Mr. Calculator later began a spirited dialogue with Lamby, one of the leaders of Alex’s Bed Entourage.

Oh, yes, there’s a storyteller in that boy. I can see it. But I won’t force it. It’ll come when it comes.

Boris’s visit caused more than his fair share of trouble that day. Not only did he cause angst for Alex, he also kept me up that night. That rotten, little dragon switched on my storytelling brain.

“What if Boris…” I thought as I settled into bed.

“Or what if…”

“Or what if…”

On it went until I finally fell into a fitful sleep.

And, the very next morning, the world was forced to deal with Crabby Dad.