Archive for October 31, 2012

A Public Service Announcement: How to Trade Halloween Candy

I’m passing this along, because it is brilliant and funny and easy for me to do.

My thoughts go out to friends & family & everyone else contending with the ravages of this past storm, so I’m not sure how to blog, exactly. A measured silence? A thoughtful response?

I decided to go with candy. And humor. Trade well, my friends.

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Pull with All Your Strength & Might

Just an aside, but:

This was my wife, Lisa,

Sunday afternoon.

I was glad for my daughter

to see it.

Lisa is great &, over the years, we’ve saved a lot

on towing costs.

Carry on!


Sloppy Copy, Ugly Beginnings & the Sense of Smell

I could never write a book about writing well — not smart enough, for starters — but I can give you a glimpse into how it sometimes works for me. I don’t speak from a pedestal; this missive comes from the trenches.

I was recently writing Book #3 for my new SCARY TALES series for grades 2-5 (read: solidlly 3-4).

Plot: There are three kids trapped in a school at night and strange creatures gather outside the building, shuffling closer. And, sure, maybe there’s already something frightening downstairs, too.

As I was working on the story, it hit me that there was a smell to it, a smell of evil that drifted into the building like smoke, lingering and circling and rubbing against your legs like a cat. So I jotted down a few words. They are an ugly mess. And I didn’t know at the time where in the story this could possibly occur, if at all.

Let me show you . . .

Yes, this is not a beautiful beginning, but precisely because it is a beginning, I am here to celebrate it. Anything that gets you started — that opens a door — is a good thing for a writer.

Worst handwriting ever. Plus, it looks like I left the paper in a puddle, or used it to soak up a spill. This is the moment in writing when you unexpectedly receive the kernel of an idea, the beginning of something, and you need to quickly get some words on the page — even if they are only 33% of the right words, and in entirely the wrong order. You know it isn’t right, not even close, but it’s not a real worry either. Those concerns come later on, like mosquitoes at dusk.

Since this will ultimately be a scary story for children, I want to be careful about how far to go with it. Where is the line I won’t cross? My intention is to push that line a little, but I don’t want to get too dark. Everyone is going to have a different opinion on what’s “too scary” and what’s not scary enough. In terms of how that plays out as a writer, I suspect it’s best to push the limits in a rough draft, since you can always pull back in revision — and again after the input of an objective editor.

Two More Quick Pass-Alongs for Teachers: The Passive Voice Explained, and Three Types of Rock

Do you find it challenging to teach the passive/active voice? Rebecca Johnson came up with a way that students will understand and, even better, enjoy. You can follow Rebecca on some new-fangled contraption called Twitter.

So, for example:

ACTIVE VOICE: Marilyn mailed the letter.

PASSIVE VOICE: The letter was mailed [by zombies].

Below, the illustration of the girl in this cartoon really makes it work for me. She’s unexpected, and it’s always more interesting when the exterior and interior don’t neatly sync up.

My apologies, I don’t have a credit for this illustration.

My New Mets Blog: 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball

I have a friend whose mother is a huge fan of the New York Mets. Sadly, she’s been losing the battle with Alzheimer’s, can no longer live on her own, and often doesn’t even recognize the face of her own son. This is familiar territory for people my age. We’re watching our parents get old, get sick, get terribly confused, and pass from our lives.

Anyway, my buddy tells me, “You know what’s funny? She still asks about the Mets. She may have forgotten most of her life, but there’s some part of her that still knows the Mets are important.”

And I get that, I get it completely. For starters, my mother is the same way. And I’m the same way, because I’m my mother’s son. In 1969, at age 8, I attended Game 5 of the 1969 World Series — the day the Mets won it all in that miracle year. It remains a central, vivid, defining event for me, a North Star in the constellation of my life.

As I posted on our Mets blog yesterday, I even remember going into school the next day with a knot in my stomach, fearful of my poor excuse for an absence. I missed school for a baseball game? I didn’t think that would fly.

“The following day in class I tried to appear as sickly as possible. But unbeknownst to me, my mother had sent in a note explaining my truancy. Mrs. Thompson came to me and said, “I heard you were at the baseball game!” I confessed that, alas, it was true, figuring myself for a dead man. But to my relief, Mrs. Thompson smiled wide and told me that I was a lucky fellow. And I was lucky, even I knew as much, but I had never expected a teacher to realize it, too. It’s like when you are a kid and ASTONISHED to see a teacher at, say, the supermarket. You’re like, “You’re a human being? That eats . . . food?!” You just didn’t see them as people, exactly. That’s how I felt about Mrs. Thompson. I never figured her for a fan.

The simple truth is, I’m still a huge Mets fan and, down to my bones, “a baseball guy.” Which is a long way of telling you that I’ve cooked up a new side project, a blog about the New York Mets. I’m partnering it with my friend, Michael, mentioned above. It’s called 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball.

If you’re a fan, come on by and check us out.

What’s that great quote from Jim Bouton?

“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball

and in the end it turns out

that it was the other way around all the time.”