Friday, October 30, 2015

How my brother and I entertain ourselves

We write Laffy Taffy holiday jokes.

Halloween Jokes

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Boo-frickety Who?
Book-frickety-hoo!  I was raised by frickin’ Belgians!

What did the boy Cyclops say to the girl Cyclops?
I’ve got my eye on you!

What is the Cyclops’ favorite TV station?

What is a ghost’s favorite bird? 
The blue-footed BOO-by.

What did the boy pirate ghost say to the girl pirate ghost?
Nice BOO-ty!

What kind of drive does Dracula like to go on?
A blood drive!

What is this year's scariest movie?
Mr. Trump Goes to Washington!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Watching kids at a chalkboard

Today I saw three junior high-aged kids writing on a blackboard in front of a business.  They were thoroughly absorbed in the task--and in each other.  And suddenly I remembered my friends and me at that age, how intensely we worked at creating that private world--the one where no grownups were allowed.

And as I watched these kids today, it occurred to me how completely, thoroughly, and tragically UNINTERESTING adults are when you're thirteen years old.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Brian Selznick and THE MARVELS

Here's the interview I did with Brian Selznick about his new book, THE MARVELS.    I'm always interested in other writers' processes.

Meanwhile, I just finished SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, which I hugely enjoyed.  In fact, I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  When I asked myself what she was doing so well, I arrived at these conclusions.

1.  She's a good writer with a strong sense of scene and character.
2.  She's using the LOTR template for her story's structure.

Here's the thing.  I (to my intense astonishment) love LOTR.  And SIX OF CROWS is kind of a riff on that.  There's a company.  And there's a journey.  And there's a quest.  Only there are more females involved (yes!) and instead of being heroes, Bardugo's characters are mostly anti-heroes.

And also in my head I think one of the characters looks like Chris Hemsworth or possibly Armie Hammer.  So there's that.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Here's one of the best things about teaching . . .

You may be lucky enough to have some of your students become life-long friends.  And then you are very, very, VERY happy for them when they have good news to share.

Congratulations, you!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Strollers and so forth

The other morning when I was walking in Liberty Park, I noticed a stroller before I even noticed who was pushing it.  It was one of those old umbrella strollers--the kind that fold up easily and don't do any special tricks.  And before I even looked at who was pushing the stroller I thought unto myself, "The person will be old.  Like me."

And lo it was the truth.  The woman appeared to be someone from my generation, pushing a baby (grandchild?) around the park in an old-fashioned umbrella stroller.

I've been thinking about strollers, actually, because earlier in the week I had lunch with some friends at the Dodo.  In the booth next to us there was a stroller that did tricks.  The young mother demonstrated for us everything it could do.  Swivel.  Expand.  Accommodate skateboards on both sides (I'm not lying).  Do handsprings across a basketball court during halftime like the Jazz Bear (I am lying).

When she was finished, I said to my friend, "How much would a stroller like that cost?  Maybe 700.00?"

She snorted mightily because she has been in the business of buying stuff for grandkids.  "At least."

I, of course, don't see the point of that when hell.  You can push a baby around Liberty Park on a fine fall day for a whole lotta less money.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Things that are more fun in theory than they are in real life

I'd love to read YOUR lists.

Meanwhile, here's a piece I wrote for the Trib.  La-Z-Boy recliners, the Pirates of the Caribbean, popcorn, and cuddle parties are involved.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A few more book-related articles in the Trib

So here's a story about YA horror.  I haven't always understood horror's appeal, but Courtney and Mackenzi's smart answers (as well as their excellent novels) made me look at the genre with new eyes.

Also, this was an interesting piece to write.  If you're interested, take the time to read about this amazing project that helps children living with pediatric cancer to play out some of their dreams.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Here's the thing I've learned about dogs that weigh 180 pounds

If they don't want to move, they don't.

They're just all nein, niet, nao, nope, no way Jose.  They ain't moving, no matter what you--a mere slip of a human being with a lot less hair--say or do.

This happened with our big Newfoundland girl, Zora, the other day when I brought her home from the vet.  She just sat in the back of the car and threw me bored glances when I invited her to get out.

"Look," I finally told her.  "Your people jump out of helicopters over the Atlantic Ocean to rescue drowning people all the time.  And YOU won't even jump out of my damn car."

She's heard this so many times that she a) no longer feels shamed by me or b) laughs at my joke.  She just sits there in the car.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of cajoling and bribing and sweet-talking and threatening, I said to my son, "What is the only thing in this world that makes Zora move when she doesn't want to move."  And my son said, "THE VACUUM CLEANER!"

So he went into the house, dragged out our vacuum cleaner, and showed it to Zora.  The sight of my son holding a vacuum cleaner there on the street was enough to make her scramble (sort of) (scrambling is hard when you're the size of Sasquatch) to her paws and get out of the car.

So.  If you ever have trouble getting enormous dogs out of your car, I pass this tip along to you, totally free of charge.

You're welcome!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Happy birthday, Vashti Louise

Today is my grandmother's birthday.  And even though she's been gone for over twenty years, I find I miss her more and more--maybe because I'm a grandmother myself now.

Right now I am thinking of her "cures" for things.  Like Seabreeze.  Remember Seabreeze?  My grandmother always had a bottle on hand and she would dump it on you and tell you it would make you better.  She also believed that warm Jell-O water was full of restorative properties, and she would make it for you when you were sick.

Here's what else I remember about my grandmother.  Shortly before dying, she planted a perennial garden.  She had that much faith in the future.

Today I am going to buy a cupcake and eat it in her honor.

Love you, Grandma.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nothing like a good bench-clearing, right?

Which is why I included it in my list of unwritten baseball rules.  The column is already up.  

Column Already Up = Good News on a Monday Morning!

On the other hand, I just received a robocall that greeted me this way:  "Hello, Seniors!"

"Hello Seniors!" = Not Good News on a Monday Morning!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Holly Goldberg Sloan's new novel

. . . is about an adorable possum.  And it's also full of fun possum facts.  I interview Holly here!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Conference Edition, October 2015

I appreciate the opportunity to write for the Trib beyond my weekly column, so if an editor calls with a request, I don't say no.  This time I was asked for another conference column.  I got the idea for this one after watching that three-hour marathonical debate on CNN where basically everybody melted under the lights like that witch in the Wizard of Oz.

Here we go.