B J Brilliant

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

BJ Novak proved this wrong.


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.
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!



Fleetwood Mac – John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham

Fleetwood Mac, thanks for last night’s extraordinary concert. I can’t get anything done for the reminiscing. During my clinging-to-the-experience Internet surfing, I stumbled upon a couple of mean-old-nasty reviews from our two metropolitan newspapers. I’m embarrassed and sorry. I don’t know what concert those grouchy reporters attended. They don’t speak for the gushing Twin Cities fans who left the Xcel Center  All my husband and I can say is “WOW! WE LOVE YOU!”

You still have “it” — and more.

Mick Fleetwood: How do you maintain your energy and stamina? You’re the only tall, gray-haired, bearded man who can pull off the knickers/red shoes combo. Your drumming evokes a collective awe that synchronizes with the thumping of our hearts.  You lift the emotions of your audience like the wind blowing a leaf through a quiet forest into a roaring stampede, then under a soothing waterfall through a tunnel of silence into a raging thunder-storm–even non-menopausal people. Only a master percussionist can do that. I’d bet against any 20-year-old who dares to arm wrestle you.

John McVie: I want to eat what you eat for breakfast. I envy your humility and soothing persona. You’re the wind beneath your band’s wings; hidden, yet so powerful — the Big Mac in Fleetwood Mac.  You command no limelight, but steer the group with your vision and your brilliant bass.  Thanks for just being you.

Lindsey Buckingham:  Holy cow!  You blew us away.  Who plays guitar like you — using fingernail tops with Tasmanian Devil drive?  With so much passion firing out of you, it’s no wonder you’re still so fit. We felt exhausted, but inspired, just watching you.

Stevie Nicks:  You’re the secret ingredient to Fleetwood Mac’s there’s-no-other-band-like-this-in-the-world sound. Lucky for Fleetwood Mac, and the world, Lindsey Buckingham showed up at his guitarist audition with a vocally gifted girlfriend and a both-or-none stipulation.  At last night’s concert, a male groupie yelled, “You’re still hot!”  So sweet — and so true.

Christine McVie: We missed you, but we thank you for the many years of joy you’ve given.

My husband and I reminisced about dancing to “Dreams” and “Landslide“.  Thirty-seven years ago, a lighted floor illuminated colorful designs under our feet and a mirrored disco ball glistened overhead–but we barely noticed.  If the nightclub was still there, we’d go give it another spin.

This year I’ll be eligible for the senior citizen discount at certain eating establishments.  My husband, eligible for a year now, refuses to ask for this perk, but on my birthday I’m driving to a drive-thru window with “Tusk” cranked on my woofers and tweeters (if I have those).  I plan to take the discount and relish the moment.

Flashback Video: Fleetwood Mac "Tusk" original footage with the USC marching band.

Click the photo for a Flashback Video that works on all devices: Fleetwood Mac “Tusk” original footage with the USC marching band. 

John, Mick, Stevie, and Lindsey, thanks for giving such hope to us aged.  We can’t wait to attend your concert in 2023!

Gangstas In the Hood

Click to play Mippey 5, livin’ on the edge with “Temporary Tattoos” parody of “Snapbacks & Tattoos” (by Driicky Graham).

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I’m a Mippey 5 fan.  Luke Thompson, the gangly Minnesota YouTube sensation, makes beverages come out of my nose kind of like “Weird Al” Yankovic did when I was — um — two.

“Weird Al” Yankovic with a “White & Nerdy” cameo by Donny Osmond. Click on this parody of “Ridin’ Dirty” (by Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone).

Thompson’s probably never even heard of Yankovic, but they are like-minded, creative masters of self and pop culture-deprecation with lots of time on their hands. Yet, Mippey 5 can crank out a music video in the time it takes me to make a blog entry.  Impressive.

Recently the Mippey 5 gangstahs caused quite a scandal in the hood while taping the Harlem Shake.

Those Fridley kids are so wild.

“Welcome to My Hood” DJ Khaled parody of 2011. Okay, so why does this suburban humor strike me so funny?

Anyway, I have a request concerning Adele’s “Rumour Has It”.  I know — it’s an overplayed tune and there’s no rapping.  But envision a parody called “Lederhosen“.  You could start a new trend, Luke.  And, seems to me “lederhosen” offers just the right amount of syllables, some great video possibilities, and plenty of room for Minnesota cheese.


Now is the season to change our Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda blues to Do-I-Did-I-Did-I’ve-Done-‘N-Did-That-Too (sung to the tune of Doo-Wah-Diddy by Manfred Man, of course).

For instance, I wanted to listen more and talk less in 2012. (Part of the whole “love better” goal.)

  • I shoulda. Listening isn’t rocket science.
  • I coulda, if I’d have just shut my pie hole.
  • I woulda, with a little discipline.

I just could not shut up for the life of me.  Obviously, I need to go to Wal-Mart for the Ears of Steel DVD.

A friend told me a story that offers the motivation to remedy my verbal diarrhea problem, but I hadn’t listened well, she doesn’t answer my calls (since I never let her talk), and I can’t find the story on the Internet.  Nonetheless, I’m going to share my flawed, paraphrased  understanding of her story, because it inspires me and I hope it will inspire you.

Once upon a time a female reporter enjoyed the prestigious honor of sitting between two extraordinary men at a banquet.  On her left was the most interesting man she had ever met.  He fascinated her with colorful stories of African safaris, world leaders he had influenced, and global events he had affected. Despite this man’s astounding accomplishments, her favorite dinner companion was on her right — for he was most interested — in her.

The man on her left:                                              The man on her right:

On a similar note, years ago I asked an author friend, “How can I become a better writer?”

Her answer? “Write.”

I expected something more philosophical and complex, like: “Climb a mountain, jump out of an airplane, walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, contemplate the pyramids, then pat your head while making circles on your belly.”

“Write” is so simple, yet so hard.  I just cannot shut off my distracted mind for the life of me.  A typical morning at my desk:  “Did I forget to shave one leg?  Oh look, the neighbor’s on our front yard, bringing his adorable dog to leave a present. I’ll have to bring our adorable grandson and his potty chair (without the ‘catch receptacle’) to the neighbor’s yard to return the favor. Ouch! What’s that on my chin — a cactus sticker?…”

Sigh. It’d be easy to become discouraged.  But, my wise, successful friends stand as beacons of light. My Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda defeats of 2012 can be changed to Do-I-Did-I-Did-I’ve-Done-‘N-Did-That-Too victories in 2013 via profoundly simple solutions.  Hence, my annual to-do list looks just like a best-selling book cover/Julia Roberts movie title — only the list has different words — in different order — and there’s no one around here who looks like Julia Roberts.  Here it is: Drumroll please.


See. What’d I say?

In my hopeful zeal, I’ve even added a sublist — items that should improve my prospects of accomplishing the first list.  This list looks more like orders from Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) in Karate Kid:

Shut Up

G-bye 2012

My idea of a New Year’s Eve party.

It’s New Year’s Eve and like Alicia Keys, this girl is on fi-ya.  Luckily the hot flashes don’t last long.  I know — you were hoping for something more glamorous, but I’m lame at New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Since mid-life, fuzzy footies, a warm blanket and the television remote have replaced high heels, dancing, and sparkling beverages in my New Year’s tradition.  My idea of partying looks more like “Fat Tuesday”. I snarf up prime rib or lobster or steak and as much of the leftover Christmas cookie and candy stash as I can.

My motivation?  Umm — to lessen the caloric temptations for the world in the following year. It’s a sacrifice, but someone’s gotta do it. Also, by making my January 1st weigh-in high, the weigh scale numbers have nowhere to go but down. This raises the bar for weight loss potential.  It’s a win-win!

And, we go to bed early, so sugar plums can dance in our heads one last time before the stuffy New Year’s resolutions kick them out.

Fan your “on fi-ya” self and have a cookie or three this New Year’s Eve!  Consider it your end-of-the-year moral obligation.

Twisted Paparazzi Christmas

Don’t trust a spouse with an iPhone camera.  If he/she suddenly takes an interest in snapping pictures of you, don’t be flattered too quickly. If he/she then snickers while running away — you might consider confiscating his/her electronic weapon.  Or, you, too, could soon be wearing candy cane tights and green, pointy shoes.

Anyway, Merry Christmas — sigh — from my twisted husband.

Click here to get elf to dance. Wait a few seconds for the video to download.

On a good note: I do look slimmer in horizontal stripes.

101 Reasons to Celebrate

Sadness surrounds us. I know. Recently my brother-in-law learned that he has a large, cancerous time-bomb (tumor) in his body.  Then, a friend’s brother died in a motorcycle accident and a beloved MN SCBWI member and her husband perished in a house fire.  These events led me to ponder the frailty of the human condition (and change my underwear and go to confession). It should have led me to finally write my will.  Instead, I imagined what I’d say from my new home if I made it to my preferred destination.

101 Reasons to Celebrate

    Number one pretty much covers the reasons to celebrate.  But I’ve never been one to summarize, so here’s a few — er — one hundred — more reasons:
  2. We’re more passionately loved than we will ever love or be loved.
  3. I did, said, and thought some pretty stupid, embarrassing, and awful things on earth, but, for the life of me, I can’t remember them anymore — and neither can God or anyone else.
  4. If we let Him, He teaches us to empty ourselves, to make room for His Love. I won’t kid you.  The emptying is painful.  It’s like giving birth — no, it IS giving birth — but, the labor pains are, oh, so worth it.  He calls our internal junk out of the stinky tomb of our souls.  I’m giving birth — to a new me! Please, be happy for me and start emptying yourself now.  You’ll thank me later.
  5. I love you and always will. In fact, I never really left you.  I’m nearer to you than ever, because I’m not distracted by my own needs. This clarity helps me to intercede and love you and accept your love better.
  6. I can finally be authentically me.  No spinning plates to impress. And, I like me better because I’m a new, improved me.
  7. All of our relatives, friends, and acquaintances are even better looking and nicer than they were on earth.  And, we get to meet people who were forgotten.  My siblings that Mom and Dad lost to miscarriage are very much alive and full of personality.  I’d tell you more about them, but I want you to be pleasantly surprised, like I was.
  8. You’ll be surprised by the things you don’t have to worry about here – like global warming, nuclear war, and hard butter.
  9. It’s never too hot or too cold here.  Like Goldilocks’ porridge.  It’s just right.
  10. You don’t have to sleep, because you’re never tired. So, no nightmares. Yet, you can rest and dream all you want.
  11. Work is optional/occasional, so no burnout.  People can volunteer to do anything they want.  One day you can be a chef; the next, a mountain climber; the next, a bungee cord tester… No one ever has to be an undertaker, a tax collector, or that guy who  puts the cotton balls in vitamin bottles.
  12. No snakes in trees selling apples.  He’s outta here.
  13. No contact lenses, glasses…We have better than 20/20 vision.  We can see into each other’s souls.
  14. Communication comes through the aforementioned process, so no cluttered inboxes, spam, or cyber viruses.
  15. We don’t have to do any gross bodily functions. Animals don’t do them either, so it’s easier to love our neighbor and his dog.
  16. But, we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and all we want.  You can eat just one Lay’s Potato Chip or you can eat the whole bag. Calories evaporate.
  17. Food tastes – I can’t even describe it – like heaven.  Nothing expires.  Think of the sweetest fruit, the spiciest salsa, or the freshest guacamole you ever tasted on earth.  It wouldn’t make the grade here.
  18. Everything is alive here – even the stones, the gems, the grass, the flowers.
  19. Everything smells incredible, but no one sneezes.  No one is allergic to anything.
  20. Nothing dies, so nothing stinks – not even Babe Ruth’s socks or my breath.  No need for deodorant, mouthwash or flossing.
  21. The water is so clear you can see the jewels at the bottom of the streams. And, the roads really are paved with gold.  “Eye has not seen…”
  22. Everything’s a celebration here, so the sound is of everyone’s individual expression of elation, joy and praise.  No one is off-tune here, but every soul’s voice is unique and harmonizes with the others’.  You’ve never heard anything so beautiful.  “Ear has not heard…”
  23. Everyone gets their own mansion, greater than their grandest dreams on this earth.  But, there’s no jealousy.  We all love what we have.
  24. Everyone is safe here. No one has to lock doors – in fact, we don’t need doors.
  25. No one worries about stealing. Everyone has what they need.
  26. All souls are respected — even Rodney Dangerfield.
  27. St. Gabriel and Louis Armstrong are teaching me to play trumpet. Next, Charlie Parker’s teaching me the sax; Amelia Earhart, St. Raphael, and my guardian angel are giving me flying lessons; then, by cracky, Steve Irwin and St. Joan of Arc are taking me alligator wrestling. As you can see, we have access to infinite knowledge and an eternity to explore, learn, write, read, compose, create… The sky’s the…There’s no limit.
  28. There are no handicaps or illness.  Every part of our body functions perfectly with no aches or pain.
  29. Our brain-functions better.  I can converse with Einstein and St. Augustine without scratching my head wondering what they’re saying. And, I think fast enough to say my funny one-liners on time, not just wish I’d said them.
  30. There are no bad-hair days.  No head lice epidemics. Hair doesn’t fall out or grow, so we don’t need to get haircuts or shave.
  31. Our toenails don’t grow.  Perfect manicure and pedicure all the time.
  32. Crops and plants replenish immediately as you pick them. Grass always stays the same length, so no need to mow. Everything’s alive, so if  you want the smell of cut grass, just ask the grass. It’ll comply.
  33. Our features are perfect. No need for mascara, eyeliner, guyliner, or anything artificial of any kind. So, no plastic surgery.
  34. Travel is done by our minds.  We think it; we’re there.
  35. We never get lost.  And, we never have to ask for directions. We have internal navigation systems.
  36. We still have our distinct personalities. Yet, there’s no politics.  Everyone’s on the same, enlightened page. And we learned that no one on earth had all the answers, except our patient God.
  37. Everything good, true, or beautiful created on earth is here.  There are museums full of stuff.  That poem I wrote in 5th grade?  God liked it.
  38. We can hang with all animals.  Monkeys don’t steal your food or wipe it on you. Camels don’t spit and insects don’t bite. There are even dinosaurs, tarantulas, and snakes here, because God says He didn’t make any mistakes.  They have these sensors in their feet so they don’t step on you. (The dinosaurs, not the tarantulas and snakes.)
  39. You’d be surprised who’s here that you’d never expected – and who’s not here. But you understand that being here was each person’s choice, not God’s.
  40. All souls need your prayers.  I didn’t get into Heaven by myself.  My praying family and friends lifted me through the roof.  Their faith helped me say “yes”.  If someone’s name pops in your head, it’s probably a cue to pray for them.  If no one’s name pops in your head, pray for those who have no one to pray for them.
  41. No one needs privacy or shadows.  We like the Light.
  42. No need for translations.  Everyone understands everyone.
  43. No one’s older than 33, but we can be any age we want, 33 or younger, at any time.  Sometimes it’s nice to try things over or just to be held on Our Dad’s chest.
  44. There’s no gravity here, unless we want it for an earth-simulation experience, so no saggy body parts.  We don’t need gravity — even to travel. Everything’s alive to will itself in harmony with everything else.  Even the streets paved with gold will themselves to serve God from under our feet.
  45. Everyone’s body is in perfect proportion. No need for weigh scales or liposuction.
  46. All wounds, inside and out, are healed. No shock treatments or blaming your mother for anything.
  47. Everyone has all of their teeth in perfect alignment.  No cavities or dental floss…
  48. We can and do touch and feel pleasure in its purest form.  Cowabunga!  THIS is what God intended? Who knew?
  49. The colors here are like none we see on earth.  Even colors are alive!
  50. There’s a flash mob every moment for every new soul(s) entering heaven.  Keeps the twelve tribes in party mode. St. Michael and his archangels invented this aerial dance with OT King David.  It’s #1 on the pop charts and going viral. They can’t wait to teach it to MC Hammer and Psy.
  51. God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit really are three Divine Persons in One.  You’ll understand when you’re here.
  52. Jesus is drop alive gorgeous.
  53. Mother Mary is more beautiful than Angelina Jolie.
  54. Joseph’s a really cool guy.  So humble…
  55. Everyone’s the same religion here.
  56. We don’t have to pick out what to wear here. And, no one’s butt looks big.
  57. Adrenaline without pain. We can do everything we wanted to do on earth, but were afraid, couldn’t afford, ran out of time…They’re called simulated earth experiences.  Earth-like things are allowed to happen – parachutes not opening, whales swallowing you, etc., but we never experience the wounds or death that comes from trying it on earth.
  58. We learn the truth about history and how God worked in it.  Like we learned that aspartame made tons of unsuspecting people sick.  And, many of the victims of the holocaust had a speedier route to heaven because the suffering they endured on earth emptied them. God evens everything out in the end, so we don’t fret the past here.  We just marvel at how God was always there with us, in control.  Nothing from the evil side thwarts the joy of Heaven.  It only makes us marvel more.
  59. We can meet anyone – from any century.  And, no one is unapproachable.  As you read this I’m hanging out with C.S. Lewis, Johnny Carson, Chris Farley, Gilda Radner, and my mom and dad and brothers, while Etta James and Elvis Presley serenade.
  60. There’s no time here, no deadlines, and no anxiety.
  61. There’s no dust or lint, so no housework or cleaning out belly buttons.
  62. No predators — animal or human. Children are safe.  Males know the color of female’s eyes and when they say they love you, they mean it.
  63. I can do a cart-wheel. So can Grandma.
  64. That guy who took credit for my idea at work?  Doesn’t matter here. He’s sorry and forgiven.
  65. We don’t have to tweeze or wax anything.
  66. No need for Kleenexes.  No boogers.
  67. No crabby cashiers, expired coupons, or stock market crashes.  Everything’s free.
  68. No problems finding parking spaces and no road rage.  But, you can drive a Roman chariot, a Lamborghini, or invent your own car, like the ones that fly in the Jetsons.
  69. One Boss. He’s the King, actually.
  70. He’s not like an earthly king.  Our King loves everyone and treats everyone kinder than fair, regardless of race, color, gender, and ball team affiliations.
  71. Our One Boss gives the ultimate bonuses – mansions and His own  life.  In fact, we think of Him as Our Dad, Our King, and Our Loving Spouse. I know that sounds weird, but you’ll appreciate this later.
  72. No scary movies here. No dead people allowed.
  73. I don’t run funny here. (At least nobody laughs.) And, I’m as fast as I wanna be.
  74. We can really see what it’s like to fly like an eagle and swim like a dolphin.
  75. No Internal Revenue Service, speeding tickets, or jails.
  76. No varicose veins, hemorrhoids, foot fungus, acne, or gingivitis.
  77. Mosquitoes and vampires don’t suck blood here.
  78. My team always wins. (Actually, not really, but, I’m happy now because when someone wins, everyone wins.)
  79. No need for alcohol or drugs to get high.
  80. No smoking, because no desire to smoke.  No addictions here.
  81. Sandy beaches without sand fleas, cigarette butts, or dog poop surprises.
  82. Magnificent forests without tick bites, outhouse anxiety, and angry bears.
  83. No inclement weather. It only snows or rains if you want snow or rain. (They make the best snow angels here.)
  84. Rainbows with or without rain. And real gold at the end.
  85. No darkness unless we need some for shadow puppets. The sun/Son always shines.
  86. I can’t kill plants here.
  87. No need for mouse or ant traps.  They aren’t annoying here.
  88. No gray hair – unless you want it.
  89. We remember only the good. Same with Our Spouse.
  90. We are always thankful.
  91. Nothing tastes bitter and nobody is bitter.
  92. You can pet porcupines, squeeze skunks, and stroke stingrays with no adverse effect.
  93. Words never hurt and we can trust our name on everyone’s lips
  94. Nothing is hidden. Unless you want to play hide and seek.
  95. No waiting here – in line, for the check in the mail, for success — ever.
  96. No time-outs, tempers, or tantrums here.
  97. My dog, Wally, and my cat, Maggie, still remember me. Your pets will, too.
  98. I get to say all the things I wished I’d have said on earth – and say them better than I would have.
  99. I get to do all the things I wished I’d have done on earth – and…
  100. No more anger, fighting, sickness, suffering, guilt, sorrow, or shame here.  Everyone is happy, contented, and forgiven – forever.
  101. This place is – Heaven!

    Click the photo for Nicholas David’s goose-pimple inducing rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Voice-2012.

Disclaimer:  Much of this comes from the tiny, presumptuous imagination of Anna Marras; it’s not THE GOSPEL.
Qualifier: The Bible gives us genuine reasons to celebrate.

1 Corinthians 2:9: “But this is just as it has been written: The eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Aye Aye, Captain

I’m practicing my salute in anticipation of our son’s return to the States next year.  He was recently promoted to Captain, but we didn’t get to witness his commissioning.  He serves our country with other brave men and women in a scary, far-off land that doesn’t specialize in tourism.  Yet, this is his second tour there — to try to make a difference.

To me, he’s still our little boy. I know he hates that, and could crush a coconut in the crook of his arm, but he’ll always be that to me — especially now.

I phoned our other son, Captain’s little 6’4-contractor-family-man brother, and asked “What should I send your brother?  What gift can possibly express, ‘Congratulations on becoming a Captain!'”

“Send him a box of Cap’n Crunch.”

Brothers are so sappy, aren’t they?  And, ingenious.

This inspired me to brainstorm for other resourceful items to commemorate the auspicious occasion.  After all, the Captain had sent me this Mother’s Day sentiment :

Caution! This video will lodge in your head and cause bad-hair dreams.
Also, an ad pops up.  Sorry.   I couldn’t find the original.

 So, here’s my list of TOP TEN THINGS TO SEND A NEW CAPTAIN.  You might want to use it — unless you have more cash (and class) than us.  And, I know, some of these items will only make him scratch his stubbly head:

10.  Captain America Blu Ray (So he gets one gift he can share with his men.)

9. Captain America T-shirt (So everyone will know he’s a Captain, even when he’s wearing civilian clothes.)


8. Captain Kangaroo’s Surprise Party Golden Book (Duh! Because it’s time to party!)

7. Captain America bobble head — Just because…


6. A Captain Jack Sparrow Tribute to the tune of “I Am Your Captain” by Grand Funk Railroad (Two Captains for the price of one.)

5. A YouTube of Captain Kangaroo with Mr. Moose. (Snappy dressers should stick together.)


4. Captain & Tennille YouTube – “Muskrat Love” (In case he starts to hate his job, he can consider what it’d be like to be  this captain.)


3. A box of Cap’n Crunch Cereal (Straight. No berries or peanut butter for a real Captain.)


2. A boxed set of Captain Underpants paperbacks.             (No explanation required.)



1. Nostalgic pictures of our Captain Underpants (packaged discreetly, so they don’t end up in enemy hands).


A Picture Book Without Pictures

A picture book without pictures is like the Pips without Gladys Knight:

Click the image to see the YouTube video

For the life of me, I can’t remember whose writer/illustrator blog featured this clever insight — but I concur.  I’m so thankful to have Elise Hylden, writer and illustrator, in our writers’ group.  She continually challenges me to say more with less.  At the 2011 MN SCBWI Conference, Illustrator Dan Santat noted the brilliance of children’s book author, Mac Barnett.

During a break, to uncover the secret of brilliant writing, I purchased Barnett and Santat’s collaboration, Oh No!  Was I surprised to find that the number of words in
Oh No! equals the number of times I use the bathroom in a day.  Yet the book was, as Santat promised, brilliant.

The illustrations that poured out of Barnett’s initial idea make the book.  Obviously, Dan Santat is one of the most brilliant illustrators Mac Barnett has ever met. The book is what it is because Barnett trusted.  He had faith in his illustrator to transform his thoughts into an out-of-this-world adventure.

I don’t have his trust — yet.  Sometimes I leave words, intending that they can be cut later, clutching to them as if to a life vest that holds my vision.  Barnett is more secure.

Barnett doesn’t need a critique group, but I wonder how Oh No! would fare under the scrutiny of the status quo.  I can see the margin scribbles on his manuscript:

       This makes absolutely no sense.

       You might need to explain this for blind kids.

       A giant frog seems a highly illogical choice to solve your protagonist’s dilemma.

       You don’t even tell your protagonist’s name for — wait!  You don’t ever tell your
protagonist’s name! Where is your character development?  Will she capture an audience if we don’t even know her name?

(My daydream has more words than the book.)

Just when I’m wrapping my head around Oh No!, Brian Snelznick comes out with
The Invention of Hugo Cabrat and Wonderstruck — thick, honkin’ books of silence.

Interestingly, these books that speak softly and carry big sticks are by men. My husband would be thrilled by this audibly “quiet”, visually “loud” trend — if he knew about it. Are these works possible for us word-abundant females?

Maybe I need more silence to see and hear clearly.