THE CURSE

Have you ever waved at someone you recognized, only to realize that you were looking at your own reflection in the mirror?

Have you ever been caught by the Schwan man singing in an off-tune baby voice–while dancing–with your dog?

When you ask your spouse or friend, “What do you think I am, stupid?” does he or she take a long time before replying?

I realized I was doomed to be one brick short of a full load on a childhood excursion with my parents, Mildred and Elmer.

Dad was driving 51/2 mph, the wrong way down a one-way street, with his blinkers still flashing from six blocks before.

Mom, wearing a shower cap over curlers, was raving about how friendly city people were, but how odd it was that they all waved with just one finger.

Then the bombshell hit.

Mom turned to dad, gave me a pat on the head, and exclaimed. “Think of it, Elmer! She will be just like us someday.”

I don’t think she was deliberately being cruel, but I didn’t sleep very well that night.

At that moment, I digested the bleakness of my future. I would be destined to scan the horizon, hoping no witnesses after I climbed into the wrong cars at drive-in theaters, asked department store mannequins for the time, and walked to the front pew of church with my dress tucked into my panty-hose.

Well, I’ve had enough.

MarlysTHECURSE

I’m not a greedy person, but when my parents handed down attributes to their kids, I was kind of hoping for brains, a little coordination, maybe even money. I would have settled for anything–anything but THE CURSE.

But how do you tell someone you love that you think they are responsible for your elevator not reaching the top floor and not the obstetrician who dropped you on your head at birth?

I would have to be delicate.

“Mom. I think i’m starting to take after you and Dad.”

“Oh! You’re starting to burp a lot?”

“Mom, no.”

“You know, I can just look at cabbage and belch.”

“Mom.”

“Oh, I know! Your underpants flew off the clothesline? Mine might not have made the news if your father hadn’t reported the missing weather balloon.”

NincompoopIV

Me, fitting the dizzy blonde stereotype even before I bleached my hair blonde.

“MOM! NO! My husband told me that I’m just like the dizzy blonde stereotype, except I don’t have a big chest or blonde hair. I fell into the toilet this morning. How was I supposed to know the seat was still up? My boss told me that he looked up in the dictionary under “nincompoop” and found MY picture. What’s really troubling is that this been one of my better days, and I owe it all to you and Dad.”

“Oh, Honey. We didn’t leave the toilet seat up.”

“No, Mom. What I’m trying to say is I’m starting to follow in your footsteps. Let’s face it. when was the last time you actually sprayed your armpits with deodorant?”

“Oh, silly! That was your father that used my hairspray for an antiperspirant–oh–and the Nair instead of the Preparation H. It was me that gargled with Pine-sol. Actually your father kind of liked it. You know how he likes the smell of pine trees.”

“Mom, sometimes I wonder what we did to deserve being the way we are.”

“Me, too. We sure are lucky, aren’t we?”

“For CRIPES sake, Mom! Haven’t you heard a word I said? We’re CURSED! Our light are on, but NOBODY’S HOME. There’s so much air between our ears that we’re in danger OF FLOATING AWAY like the Goodyear Blimp! Don’t-you-un-der-stand-what-all-of-this-MEEEEEEEEEEANS?”

“Oh, silly! Of course I do. What do you think I am? Dingy?”

THEGIFTTHATKEEPSONGIVING

 Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being funny, forgiving, and fabulous. I love and miss you. M

Writing Drill Sergeant’s Post-Rejection Motivators

Inside my head and heart reside Writing Drill Sergeant and Writing Saboteur.
They don’t get along. Especially after a manuscript rejection.

Writing Saboteur: “Another rejection . . . This is hard.”

Sniffle.

Writing Drill Sergeant: “Waa. Waa. Waa. How many rejections have you collected? 200? 300?”

“No.”

“100?”

“No.”

“More than 50?”

“Well . . . no.”

“You’re pathetic.”

“Still . . . rejection sucks. Can’t I just greet people at Wal-Mart?”

“Get your wimpy, people-pleasing self back in the ring.”

“Don’t make me write today. I’d rather bury my face in a Dairy Queen supersized Capuccino Heath Butterfinger Blizzard and cry.”

“Get. In. The CHAIR!”

“Wait–I need to pee first.”

“Hurry up.”

“And eat just a little chocolate.”

“Don’t test me.”

“Can’t you say something encouraging?”

“Drill sergeants don’t encourage. They motivate. Here’s a list of quotes.”

“You made a list–for me?”

“Anything to get you to stop whining.”

WRITING DRILL SERGEANT’S POST-REJECTION MOTIVATORS

1. ROCKY

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone): “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.”

2. ROCKY II

Trainer Micky Goldmill (Burgess Meredith): “For a 45-minute fight, you got to train hard for 45,000 minutes.”

3. A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks): “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great.”

Or: Jimmy Dugan: “Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying. There’s no crying in writing (baseball)!”

“I know you watch a lot of movies, but do you have any literary motivators–ones who use their inside voice?”

4. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Harper Lee)

Atticus Finch: “but sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down…”

5. CHARLOTTE’S WEB (E.B. White)

While Wilbur waits for the spiders: “Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.”

6. WINNIE THE POOH (A. A. Milne)

Piglet: “Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.

7. THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD (Watty Piper)

Little Engine: “I think I can. I think I can.”

“How about something more recent?”

8. THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING (Ashley Spires)

The bad feelings are about to start all over again. Then she (a regular girl) notices something surprising. There are some parts of the WRONG things that are really quite RIGHT. . . . By the time she reaches the end of the trail, she finally knows how to make the thing MAGNIFICENT. She gets to work.

“Writing Drill Sergeant, you’re really kind of a softie.”

“Shut up and type.”

Not Your Hallmark Christmas

AwayInAMangerMy youngest son turns 32 today.  This flashed me back to my favorite Christmas letter of the same age, minus a month:

I HEAR HALLMARK MAKES PRETTY NICE CARDS

There is one time of the year that my family meets with as much breathless anticipation as they might welcome an impacted molar or hemorrhoids.

No, it’s not tax time or the annual Limburger Cheese and Lutefisk Breakfast. It’s Christmas card picture time.

I don’t understand. Don’t you get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the mere mention of Christmas cards?

Not my family. All they can think of is who’s going to get the tar, who’s going to get the feathers, and who’s going to tie me to the telephone pole near the ant hill. You’d think I was Roseanne Barr threatening to sing the national anthem at the World Series.

This unwarranted hostility began with my husband and his preposterous idea: “I hear Hallmark makes pretty nice cards and they’re already made.”

I don’t know what he’s got against creativity. He only had to wear a Santa costume in July once. And it’s not like I collected a big insurance settlement when he fell off the roof.

The rest of the family turned on me in 1983–just when I was about to capture the real meaning of Christmas. Picture this: a nativity scene in the old barn engulfed by the morning rays . . .

My skeptic, Ebenezer, thought this was hysterical, especially since I was considering our two children as the holy couple. I have to admit that I could see his point when I approached the kids at the breakfast table. Five-year-old Mary had two-and-a-half-year-old Joseph in a full nelson because he hid the prize from the Co-Co Puffs.

I wish I would have known some wrestling moves when I tried to wrangle him into his sister’s bathrobe. Our son figured this Joseph guy must have been a pretty big sissy and wanted no part of imitating him–until his sister screeched, “Get out of my clothes!” Then he decided he rather liked dressing funny. Mary had such a conniption, she knocked her grape juice on the floor.

I tried not to cry when I couldn’t get the huge spatter of purple off of my new wallpaper. “It’s okay, Mommy,” Mary consoled me, “People might think it’s part of the design.”

In the meantime Joseph tried to flush an entire toilet paper roll down the commode. He ran to his room before the smoke even cleared from my ears.

When Mary was ready and the flood waters subsided I summoned him out of his sanctuary. He emerged wearing nothing but cowboy boots, a ten-gallon hat, and a red bandana.

By the time I got Joseph dressed the second time, I felt like I had ridden a donkey to Bethlehem and given birth. This was a little discouraging, as I still had to get to the barn with the manger props and camera equipment, a doll to be baby Jesus, the potty chair (just in case), and two cookies for bribery. This was no easy task as I was seven months pregnant and had very little arm room to spare. Mary had to devote every ounce of energy she could muster just to drag a bawling Joseph behind.

We met old Scrooge in the yard. I tried to look like I was having fun.

“Wook, Dad,” our son sobbed, while picking his nose, “I’m Jophes.”

“Jophes. You’re so stupid, Booger King.” Mary disdainfully slapped his finger loose.

“Weave me awone!” wailed an indignant Joseph who hauled off to deck Mary, but missed, falling to the ground, splitting open his lip.

“I hear Hallmark makes pretty nice cards,” (I knew it was coming) “and they’re already made.”

I stomped on my spouse’s instep as I trudged past, pausing only to suggest where he and Mr. Hallmark could go.

I managed to ignore his annoying cackle until we reached the barn where flies, cobwebs, and bird droppings overwhelmed us. Joseph stuck his finger in a fresh deposit and asked, “What’th thith white thtuff?”

“Frosting,” said Mary. “Taste it.”

Joseph and I put the frosting on Mary’s cookie.

I was able to snap only four shots before the sunlight moved from my makeshift manger.

Away in a Manger

The resulting photograph of Jessica and Joshua and doll (Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus), captioned, “Blessed are they who see Christmas through the eyes of a child.”

I addressed our Christmas letter from the hospital after having a baby boy (Seth) on December 12th, 1983. He was due January 12th, 1984. (The doctor maintains that photography will not induce labor.)

Our unexpected Christmas present added a special significance to our handmade greetings, in which I had inscribed, “Blessed are they who see Christmas through the eyes of a child.” (Amazing how we can turn from sarcastic to serene in an infant heartbeat.)

Card recipients raved about how angelic our little darlings photographed and asked what I had planned for the next year as an encore. I always made sure my husband was out of earshot when I replied: “I hear Hallmark makes pretty nice cards–and they’re already made.”

Missed Opportunity

My husband and I caught our breath at the bottom of the sidewalk. Before us loomed our last and toughest hill of this bike ride and we knew we needed to peddle fast and build up speed to make it to the crest. Plus, we didn’t want to run over the couple coming toward us, especially since the woman was clearly expecting and their two dogs on leashes zigged and zagged across the path.

They moved to a lawn and waved, so my husband took off. I raced to catch up, peddling faster and faster, then slower and slower and slower. Any slower and I’d start rolling backwards. I stood up on my peddles as I passed the couple.

“Hello,” I said, pretending to be as fit as my athletic husband. Really, I was quoting The Little Engine That Could in my head. I think I can. I think I can. I think I–“WHOA!” CRASH!

My left foot slipped off the pedal and I fell with a clatter.

While his sympathetic wife gasped, the man ran to me. “Are you okay?”

Embarrassed, I stood without checking my wounds. “Yeah, I’m okay. Thank you.” I hastily pushed my bike the rest of the way up the hill and rode past my husband. “Let’s go home.”

Once there, we assessed my bruises and cuts and my husband said. “I’ve seen that couple before.”

That couple? Oh, yeah. They were such a blur. Would I know them if I saw them again?

That’s when I realized that I acted like a jerk. Not because I fell off the bike, but because I missed an opportunity to express humility and gratitude. My bike acrobatics offered the perfect chance to allow others to be the best version of their heroic selves–and for me to be the best version of my thankful self.

One day we could’ve reminisced, “Remember how we first became friends? You fell off your bike and did that cool, slow-motion fall, with the quirky, high-pitched scream?”MyBike

“Yeah! And you let your dogs lick my scrapes clean while YOU went into labor and we helped deliver your baby right then and there. That was so nice of you to name her ‘Grace,’ after me.”

“It was the least we could do. You were bleeding and all.”

Sigh . . .

Sometimes we miss opportunities, when pride goeths AFTER the fall.

2014 MN SCBWI Conference Highlights II

KellyLightNPeepy

Kelly Light and Peepy

LisaPeepyMe600

Peepy with Lisa Yee and me.

StephenShaskanNPeepy

Stephen Shaskan and Peepy

Trisha Speed Shaskan and Peepy

Trisha Speed Shaskan and Peepy

The 2014 MN SCBWI Conference brimmed with colorful characters. In her keynote “Schlemiel, Schlimazel, Give Us Any Chance, We’ll Take It,” KellyLight, creator of the Louise Loves Art series and illustrator of Elvis and the Underdogs and The Quirks, invited participants on her Laverne and Shirley-inspired  journey toward children’s book superstardom, encouraging us to take chances and push forward.
“I hope my story shows other SCBWI members that believing in yourself, along with a little goofy use of absolutely anything that helps to keep you going . . . can get you down that road to publication . . . maybe a bit bumped around and nauseous . . . But well on your way to realizing your dream.”  

See more at kellylight.com.

CandiceGrace

Candice Keimig and Grace Hansen, ABDO Publishing

After an  ABDO Publishing  workshop by Candice Keimig, Art Director, and Grace Hansen, Editorial Marketing Coordinator, Lisa Yee, author of the Millicent Min and Bobby middle grade series presented her keynote, “From Slush Pile to Best-Seller: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

The realism in Lisa Yee’s work stems from her inspirations, real live people. Yee’s son Benny inspired Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) and Bobby the Brave (Sometimes). Marley Sandelski first drew notice as a supporting character in Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time. But, when he became an inadvertent stop-bullying ambassador for real kids, Marley earned his own book as the protagonist in Warp Speed. The Kidney Hypothetical–How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days came about when Yee’s daughter took a dangerous dare. Learn more about Lisa Yee, the 2014 Sid Fleischman Humor Award-winning author, at lisayee.com

2014 MN SCBWI Conference Intensives

ShannonBerg600

SCBWI Friend Shannon Berg

CharactersBruceNQ

Bruce Hale and Quinette Cook, SCBWI Regional Advisor

Sunday intensives by Bruce Hale, Carter Hasegawa, Lisa Yee, and Kelly Light proved to be a bittersweet opportunity–like being told you can only have one Lays Potato Chip.

I’d registered for Bruce Hale’s intensive, “Funny Business: The 7 1/2 Secrets of Writing Humor.”

Then I waffled, thinking, “Really, isn’t a sense of humor a natural gift either you have or you don’t? Maybe I made a mistake.”

Turns out I could have used another hour/week/year of Hale’s instruction. Funny can be dissected and analyzed.

Three Funny Business Don’ts:

  • Don’t use topical humor
  • Don’t try to get too cutesy.
  • Don’t telegraph your jokes

Three Funny Business Do’s:HumorComesFromCharacter600

  • Do respect your audience.
  • Do give them the humor they like.
  • Do let them finish the punchline.
  • Do work in threes. (Oops.)

For more writing tips, see BruceHaleWritingTips.com.IfWeAreNotFunny

Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.
~ Mark Twain

My conference highlight was being selected for the 2014-2015 Writer Mentorship. Mentor  Trisha Speed Shaskan, I won't take this blessing lightly. (No pun intended, Kelly Light.) Congratulations, Illustrator Mentorship winner Joanna Ward! You'll love working with Illustrator Mentor Nina Crittenden.

My conference highlight was being selected for the 2014-2015 Writer Mentorship.  Mentor Trisha Speed Shaskan, I won’t take this blessing lightly. (No pun intended, Kelly Light.) Congratulations, Illustrator Mentorship winner Joanna Hunt! You’ll love working with Illustrator Mentor Nina Crittenden.

 

 

 

2014-2015 MN SCBWI Conference Highlights I

2014-2015MNSCBWIConference

L to R: Jessica Freeburg, Celia Waldock, Quinette Freeburg, and Alicia Schwab

L to R: Jessica Freeburg, Celia Waldock, Quinette Cook, and Alicia Schwab

Thanks to the leadership and volunteers of the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators (SCBWI) for coordinating a fabulous 2014-2015 conference.
Event organizers usually hear more from participants about technology glitches and rest room malfunctions than when the life-bettering experiences they orchestrate. I hope that wasn’t the case this October.

Jessica and Quinette pictured with SCBWI member, Cynthia Weishapple

Jessica and Quinette pictured with SCBWI member, Cynthia Weishapple

These are the unsung leaders:

  • Quinette Cook – Regional Advisor
  • Jessica Freeburg – Assistant Regional Advisor
  • Alicia Schwab – Regional Illustrator Coordinator
  • Nina Crittendon – Registration Coordinator
  • Celia Waldock – Mentorship Coordinator
Alicia, Nina, and conference volunteer and MN SCBWI Banner Contest winner Sara Weingartner

Alicia, Nina, and conference volunteer and MN SCBWI Banner Contest winner Sara Weingartner

I don’t think any toilets overflowed, but our cups sure did, with professional guidance,  reinvigorated vision, and fellowship with other writers and illustrators.

Saturday, October 11, keynotes, workshops, and manuscript reviews were topped off by book signings, a reception, and a portfolio showcase.

BruceHale

Bruce Hale

Bruce Hale, author of over 30 books for young readers, including the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries, School for S.P.I.E.S, and the Clark the Shark picture books, led the charge with Writer’s Mind, Warrior’s Mind: Winning the War of Art.

Hale instructed us with humor and inspiration, quoting the likes of  E. L. Doctorow: “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” And Steven Pressfield: “Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

Bruce Hale’s checklist for victory:

  1. Start good habits.
  2. Write like your hair is on fire.
  3. Think it through, take the big view.
  4. Teamwork makes the dream work.
  5. Face the iron tiger.
  6. Beat resistance with persistence.

See more at BruceHaleWritingTips.com

Carter Hasegawa

Carter Hasegawa

EmilyClement

Emily Clement

Saturday workshops included Carter Hasegawa, Assistant Editor, Candlewick Press, presenting Researching the Fantastic; and Emily Clement, Associate Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books presenting Love at First Sight: The Great First Page.

EmilyMark

MN SCBWI Conference Volunteer, Mark Ceilley, introducing Emily Clement

Since the workshops occurred simultaneously, I only have notes on Emily Clement’s workshop.

When Clement  receives a manuscript she asks herself these questions: Does it evoke emotion? Does it have that little something extra? Does it make her feel something? Does it exude authority and confidence, a language and style that intrigues, and expectations, hints, or promises?

Some of her examples of great first pages:

  • Lisa Yee’s Millicent Min, Girl Genius
  • Bobbie Pyron’s Lucky Strike
  • Kate Milford’s Greenglass House
  • Nikki Loftin’s Nightingale Nest

Look for more conference highlights about Lisa Yee, Kelly Light, and ABDO Publishing in upcoming posts. In the meantime, check out my 2014 MN SCBWI Conference Photo Album where you’ll see the photos from this story and more.

Ann Page, me, Bruce Hale, and Louise Aamodt

Ann Page, me, Bruce Hale, and Louise Aamodt

My BATTLE BUNNY Regret

MacBarnettFan

A few Mac Barnett favorites that aren’t pictured here: SAM AND DAVE DIG A BIG HOLE, MUSTACHE, OH NO!, OH NO! NOT AGAIN!, GUESS AGAIN, and EXTRA YARN

If you get the opportunity to meet Mac Barnett, read Battle Bunny first.  Take it from me. I blew it. When Barnett visited  the Red Balloon bookstore in my neighborhood I hadn’t read it yet. MacBarnett Sept2014MacBarnettSept2014KEM friend, Elise, even pulled the  book out of a Barnes and Noble book shelf and told me I’d like it. But  I figured I’d look at it later.

Now I’m thinking the only thing I would have liked better is an autographed copy of Battle Bunny and a chance to gush about it. Dang it.

BATTLEBUNNYBOOKThe strange-looking treasure is two books in one.

 

 

It began as Birthday Bunny, written by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett in the style of a syrupy, grandma-friendly Golden Book.

Then it was given to  protagonist Alex (Scieszka and Barnett’s alter ego) by who else, but his doting Gran Gran. “Alex”  transforms it into a disturbingly entertaining, testosterone-ridden, hare-raising tale of doom and destruction.  (Alex’s artistic side comes compliments of Matthew Myers).

ToAlexanderLook closely.
The raw beauty of this book lurks in the details.  For instance, check out Gran Gran’s sentiments.

 

This note looks so real, I first assumed the library had a used book on their shelves. I can picture Alex gagging, choking, then gritting his teeth in response to his grandma’s  saccharine birthday endearments.

I’d type excerpts, but half the brilliance comes from “Alex’s” illustrations.AlexCredits

PluckedChicken

AlexToTheRescueAlexToTheRescueII

BackCoverBattleBunnyOur son wrote and drew BATTLE  stories in grade school. We know this because of the calls to the principal’s office.
CRACKLINOATBRANDThe principal would run his hand over his face and  suggest Ritalin. We’d try to look concerned, then save the confiscated manuscripts in scrapbooks.

Luckily, Josh had a revolutionary teacher with revolutionary ideas about letting kids be kids.

THE BEST STORY OF HANSEL AND GRETTEL Personally, I think the wrong family member creates children’s books.

 THE BEST STORY OF HANSEL AND GRETTEL

Text and spelling copyright 1991, Joshua Honeyman,
5th grade

T’was a time when sheep smoked cigars and elephants had cars and there lived a gangster group called the devils. In that group was two of the baddest, the leader Hansel and his evil side kick Grettel. Hansel and Grettel went into the woods in their nuclear tank while they redecorated it with spray paint. When they were nearly done they saw a house full of candy. They spray painted it with black, green, and purple paint. Then they knocked it down with a silver battle axe. hen I glanced at brats wrecking her  house, I got out my ninja stuff. Sharp like a knife I knocked the axes out of there hands. Suddenly Hansel kicked me into the microwave. I kicked the door down.

“You SKUM!” I yelled “NO ONE MESSES WITH ME!”

“Except us,” chuckled Gretel.

“HI-YA!” I yelled while kicking Gretel to the ground. Hansel took a missile lancher from the tank so I threw a sword it nocked it away from him.

“DIE DANDREFF DOG!” I yelled kicking them both to the TV set. I chained them to the couch and switched the channel to PBS.

“NO!” yelled Hansel and Gretel. Mr. Rogers was on. “AAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!”

(Incidentally, this valiant superhero is now an Army Captain.)

BattleDuckiesWhile reading Battle Bunny to children, one must read it first as originally written, then reread it Alex’s way. Our grandkids’ faces light up as they notice each detail and witness the unleashing of an imagination (Technically, three imaginations: Scieszka, Barnett, and Myer’s).

During a recent overnight stay, our youngest granddaughter forced me (Okay, she said, “Please.”)  BattleDuckiesIIto read Battle Bunny to her twice–which, technically, means four times. The next morning she asked if she could play with the bath toys. I thought her request was unusual, because A.) she wasn’t taking a bath, and B.) we have way cooler toys than bath toys. Later, as I cooked breakfast, I overheard her, deeply immersed in her play world. “Take that! Evil Battle Bunny! You’re no match for my Superhero Duckies!”

When I looked under the coffee table, her request made perfect sense. A rebel  squeeze toy rabbit peered through his transparent plastic cup prison at an intimidating fleet of rubber ducky wardens.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m so proud of my bunny-trapping granddaughter. (Sheer genius, like her Gretel-kicking uncle.)

Gran Grans, Nanas, Grandmas–whatever you call yourself–UNITE! We owe it to our grandkids to supply each one of them with a copy of Battle Bunny (for inspiration), a box of markers,  and a mushy Golden Book with a title page note from us urging them to go wild and re-create.

I do hope their parents (and their school principals) will forgive us.BATTLEBUNNYMEETSBATTLEDUCKIES

B J Brilliant

Someone once said “A picture book without pictures is like the Pips without Gladys Knight.”

BJ Novak proved this wrong.

BUSYTOWN THE MUSICAL

BUSYTOWNIIAny children’s book writer or illustrator would think they’d gone to Heaven if their work was brought to life in a musical. That’s why Richard Scarry is probably smiling right now. His awesome picture books have  achieved that prestigious honor with Busytown The Musicaladapted by playwright Kevin Kling and composer Michael Koerner.

Yesterday, my daughter, three granddaughters, and I attended this lively, pickle-car, chug-a-wug-a-choo-choo show at the Children’s Theater in Minneapolis.  I’ll be honest. I enjoyed it as much as anyone. My cheeks still hurt from ginning.
BUSYTOWNSET
The caliber of acting, singing, and performing far exceeded my expectations. The show was almost over before I realized only six actors played the bazillion busy parts. The most phenomenal multitasker, however, was the one-woman organist/flutist/kazooist/percussionist/every-instrumentalist who played the musical accompaniment. (Sorry, I don’t know her name.)

Reed Sigmund, the  actor who played Huckle the Cat (and a back-up singing nurse and various other characters) had the  voice and endearing presence of Chris Farley. I kept hoping he would break into lame ninja moves or warn the kids about living in a van down by the river.

Meghan Kreidler played a brassy mail carrier so well, she reminded me of Rosie O’Donnell in A League of Her Own. And she had no problem seamlessly transitioning into a lovesick nurse, Grocer Cat, a train car, or a busy commuter.

Dean Holt had the perfect voice and feathered hat-wearing head for heart-throb Lowly Worm.

I’d mention all the cast members and behind-the-scenes stars, but you need to  experience the colorful set, funny costumes, energetic choreography and happy audience yourself. Busytown the Musical is playing until October 26, so get your tickets now.

CHILDRENSTHEATERCheck out other Children’s Theater Company productions. We’re bringing in the holiday spirit with The Grinch Stole Christmas. (I can’t wait to meet Cindy Lou Who. Can you?)

And, remember, there’s no better way to get your children’s book creations in shape for future musicals than the 2014 MN Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Annual Conference. It’s not too late to register!

California Dreamin’

Beloved author/illustrator sightings of Aaron Becker, Tomie dePaola, Judy Blume, and more; favored agent schmoozing, preferred publisher swooning . . . I’m living vicariously through my creative friends as they message me from the 43rd Annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Summer Conference in Los Angeles.

Through technology, I can be a little birdie in the corner as Elise Parsley, represented by Steven Malk, debuts as the one of Writers House’s newest authors/illustrators; Alicia Schwab meets fellow authors/illustrators represented by her new agent, Jodell Sadler, of Sadler Children’s Literary; and Kristi Herro networks to find the perfect advocates to promote her work. They generously share their experience, so I can experience it, too. I’m so happy and lucky to be welcomed along in spirit. Thanks, friends!

My best wishes and support goes to them and all who work so diligently to bring joy, learning, and growth to the world through children’s literature.  For all seeking to be discovered and all seeking to discover them, here’s rooting for an extra-fruitful conference.