Friday, January 18, 2019

Thank you, Mary Oliver

. . . for this poem, "The Journey."  And for all the others, too.  RIP.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

When a Butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world . . .

. . . it causes a hurricane in another part of the world.

I've been thinking a lot lately (because I'm old now) about the long-range unintended consequences of certain actions.  Take the Writers' Guild strike in 2007-2008, an action I completely supported because when you looked at the puny percentage writers were being paid for successful  projects (the guy who wrote the screenplay for Forrest Gump, for example, hardly made anything) you  said UNFAIR!  Or at least I did.

Anyway, the strike gave rise to reality TV, which was a way for networks to keep producing content.  And what they discovered was that reality TV is cheaper to produce AND also there's an appetite for it.  Enter Donald Trump and The Apprentice.  David Frum, George W. Bush's speechwriter, had interesting things to say in this article about how Trump's image as a titan of industry and business was actually crafted and burnished by the producers.  And yeah.  That's the Trump that the American public saw and that't the Trump they elected.

So there you have it.  Writer's strike.  Reality TV.  The Apprentice.  And now this moment in America where our president is refusing to sit down at the high school lunchroom table with our allies and having keggers up the canyon with a former KGB agent instead.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

White Teeth

I'm watching FBI right now, a new show which I actually like.  BUT.  I am so distracted by how WHITE everybody's teeth are.  The characters don't often smile given the fact they're busy busting drug kingpins and so forth, but when they do . . . WHOA!  I AM BLINDED BY THE LIGHT! (Also, I'm revved up like a deuce.) (Also, I'm another runner in the night.)

I definitely like white teeth.  Some days I do nothing all day long but sit on the front porch and think about how much I like white teeth.  I want whiter teeth myself, in fact.  But I'm trying to decide if so much white-ness is actually a good look. #firstworldgrooming

Monday, January 14, 2019


Dear Dylan,

This time 35 years ago I was holding you in my arms at LDS hospital, rejoicing in the perfection of you.  It was snowing outside, the flakes wide and soft landing against my dark window pane.  I'd had a few visitors earlier, of course.  Your dad.  Your two older brothers.  Grandma.  Aunt Becky, who was working at the hospital at the time.  Also some people from the ward I didn't know very well who came and stayed FOREVER which taught me that short visits to people in the hospital are the best.

After I was alone I held you close and said a silent thank you to the all the stars in the universe for sending me another boy.  And I have been so grateful for you ever since.  For your loyalty, your sense of humor, your absolute tenacity, your kindness.  It hasn't always been an easy go for you.  But I can truthfully say you always have and you always will make me proud.

Happy birthday.


Friday, January 11, 2019

The More Things Change . . .

The more they remain the same.

So last night at the store I shelved baby board books with these titles.

Feminist Babies
A is for Activist
(And my personal favorite) Baby Loves Green Energy 

When I first started writing for kids a million years ago, the mantra was DON'T PREACH! Because of course that's what kids books often did.  Preached.  They had morals, don't you know, like Aesop's fables.  And the sentiment when I started up was that you shouldn't preach--that a story should be a story and if there was a takeaway from the story, fine.  But an agenda shouldn't be the reason for writing the story in the first place.

This is a principle I have taught my own students and, frankly, it's a principle I still subscribe to.

HOWEVER!  First World America, which has honorable and admirable intentions, clearly didn't get the memo.

Different agenda.  Same religious fervor.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

On Pulling Books and Sending Them Back to the Publisher

Yesterday at work (I'm a part time bookseller at The King's English) I "pulled" our YA section.  In other words, I loaded up a bunch of books that haven't sold well to ship back to the publisher to get a credit against our balance.

It's tedious work under the best of circumstances, but for a writer, it's a particularly disheartening job. Every time I took another book off the shelf, I thought to myself, "This represents months, if not years, of work for an author who cared enough about a story to write it. And poof! Here it goes up in smoke after a couple of months of sitting on a shelf."


What the experience did do for me, however, was to remind me that writing a book should be a labor of love . . . for you. There's very little you can control after you finish your book, so you ought to enjoy the journey while you're writing it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

On Movies You Liked But that Critics Mostly Hated

I finally watched The Greatest Showman this past weekend while taking care of grandchildren in Flagstaff. And wow. Much to my surprise I kinda loved it. Elephants! Hugh Jackman! Spurting Flames! Chicks with beards and pink hair! Hugh Jackman! Also Zac Efron! Singing! Dancing! Angry mobs! Dudes dressed up like nutcrackers! Horses! Hugh Jackman!

Yeah, I know it wasn't historically accurate. And maybe Michelle Williams was just a little too happy about hanging sheets out to dry on that slum rooftop where she and Hugh Jackman lived. And maybe the soundtrack will sound dated ten years from now. And maybe the drama part was kind of cheesy what with Hugh Jackman rushing into that burning building to save Zac Efron's life, although (personally speaking) I am very glad he did because the world might be a less good-looking place without Zac Efron in it.

BUT STILL.  I really enjoyed the movie.  So I got online and read the critical reviews, which were mostly snarky although actual audiences seemed to like the movie as much as I did. And, lo, I am pleased to say that I didn't care.  I no longer feel bullied by critics who disagree with me.

Oh yes. I am such a grownup now.

P.S. I feel kind of bad that my grandkids will probably never see a circus in real life now.