Writing Advice

When I explained to my boys that I hadn’t “won the game where a good writer will teach me how to write better” (a picture book mentorship competition), Francis (4) offered some advice: “I put my hand on the paper like this and then I write on top of it. Do you want to try that?”

Capturing the Moment

When I tell people that I am writing picture books and also have young children, I am often told how lucky I am, how what they say and do must provide such a treasure trove of inspiration, etc. This is all certainly true and one of the main reasons I started this blog. However, the other part of it is that it is hard to find time to remember things and write them down. Often, as I'm going about my day, I think of something I want to add to this blog or that I should write down. Sometimes I have the next three weeks of this blog planned out...and then I get to my computer and can't remember any of them.

Today, looking around the dining room after lunch, I found a mess that was impressive even by my standards. This was the kind of mess that could only be made by a boy who had divided his noodles into good guys and bad guys and started a war while the three-year-old was simultaneously attempting to make a banana milkshake by putting part of a banana in his cup of milk and getting the battery-operated milk frother down from the counter on his own  to mix it while the good guy (or maybe bad guy) noodles jumped in only to be poured back in the bowl along with the milk and the (not really mixed) banana. It was, in short, the kind of mess that you need to take a picture of to preserve for posterity and future hilarity prior to cleaning it up.

At no time in history has it been easier, theoretically, to preserve such a moment. I had a pocket. I had a phone in a (not really any more, probably) waterproof case with a camera in that pocket. I took it out, only to discover that I had insufficient memory to take a picture. Easily solved! I thought as I tried to delete some pictures. Surely if I delete one there must be room for another. That's only logical. WRONG. I deleted about 30. I still could not take one. I deleted about 30 more. I still cannot take one. At this point, I started to feel frustrated and also the baby started to crawl on the table. The boys, by this time, were running around outside without shirts on. I didn't know whether to be pleased or upset that the dog who used to clean up messes of this kind for me was no where to be seen.

The tablets, which also have cameras, are kept uncharged (so that kids can't ask to use them; they are charged prior to approved tablet-using days like days when we're flying somewhere or going to the hospital). The actual camera that is not a phone hasn't worked in more than a year (it claims its memory card is locked; it is not; after discovering that my spouse's phone is a better camera than the real camera anyway, we gave up on trying to fix it). However, having decided I needed a picture of this mess and already devoted at least 5 minutes to what should have been a 5-second process, I was determined not to give up. In the end, I took my laptop computer from my desk and took the picture. It was a little harder to capture the angle I wanted, but it was better than nothing.

I suppose that's what I'm going for generally: the lunch itself, although not very nutritious, was better than nothing. The supervision I provided while thinking about other things, was better than nothing. Taking the baby off the table was better than nothing. And taking a picture with my computer and writing this down a few hours later, during a rare moment when all three kids are napping, is better than nothing. It may be hard, in writing or in photos, to perfectly capture a moment, but if we don't try, we certainly can't do it. So, I'll just keep trying. It's better than nothing.


Francis (3) has decided that his name should be Circus Act. He sometimes responds to Francis still, but other times corrects me. For a while, I could still write Francis, but now he realizes that Circus Act should begin with C and made me correct it on a Mother's Day card we sent to my mom. I couldn't think of a reason why his name shouldn't be Circus Act, although I assume it won't stay that way forever.

When I was in kindergarten, I announced I was going to change the spelling of my name to Sara instead of Sarah. Presumably, my parents prefer "Sarah," but my mom told me that it was my name and I could spell it however I liked. My kindergarten teacher seemed to think I had forgotten how to spell my name. I changed it back after about a week. Circus Act at least shows more persistence than I did.

The Story of Francis the Bad Guy Farter

Until recently, I would have said I am not a big fan of "potty humor" or fart jokes or anything like that. That said, they are extremely effective. 

Like I assume many kids do, Anthony and Francis often say, "Tell me a story about Anthony the ____ and Francis the _____." Lately, they have been asking for Anthony the police officer (or sometimes bomb squad or SWAT or something), which seems normal enough, but naturally Anthony's character needs a nemesis: Francis the Bad Guy Farter. 

So, their story usually goes something like this:

Anthony the bomb squad SWAT team member got a call about strange noises and smells coming from under a bush in the park. He arrived on the scene with his trusty K-9 and his bomb squad robot in his police SUV [the accessories are really important] to investigate. Suddenly, from under the bush came a sound. Do you know what sound it was? Pffffffff. 

Then we all make the sound for a while. The longer it goes on, the funnier it is. Comedic genius!

Everyone Will Cheer

Anthony (5) wanted to get a belt a few months ago. Apparently, belts are what men wear and he said that if he wore a belt to school, "Everyone will cheer for me." We got him one. (Francis [3)] also occasionally wears it and calls it a "seat belt.") There was no report on actual cheering.

If you want to warn him not to do something he shouldn't, you can tell him, "No one will cheer for you."

I guess in wanting to publish a book, that's what I want - everyone to cheer for me. If I don't ever finish what I'm working on/submit it/get it published, no one will cheer for me. I guess I better get to it!

Happy Easter!

Good Friday and Easter as understood by my sons:

Anthony (age 5): I'm sad because Jesus died, but on Easter he will be alive again. Jesus died because of our bad choices, like yelling or not putting on our socks.

Francis (age 3): Jesus will die so we can have Easter candy.

One more word problem

I didn't know what a chapter book was until I joined SCBWI. As a kindergartener, my teacher used that word, but I thought it meant any book that was long enough to be broken down into chapters and was kind of like a "kids' word" for novel in the same way that I thought of "potty" as the kids' word for "toilet" or "choo choo" as the kids' word for "train." It didn't occur to me that that word was used just with young kids because young kids were the intended audience.

Difficult Words

I often tell you about words that my children mistakenly misinterpret. Today I'm going to tell you about two phrases that I misunderstood for a surprisingly long time:

1. Birthday suit - Every year for my birthday, my mom would get me a new dress. We would call this my birthday dress. As in, "What are you going to wear to church today?" "I think I'll wear my birthday dress or maybe my Easter dress. What do you think?" I assumed that a suit was the male equivalent of a dress and that someone's birthday suit was the suit that their mom had gotten them most recently for their birthday, not the "suit" that they were born in.

2. Little black book - My dad had a book that was little and black. He wrote down recipes in it (stuffed cabbage, meatballs, pumpkin soup cooked in a pumpkin, etc.). 

I think the misinterpretation of words has the potential make an excellent (element of a) story. 

Francis' New Game!

Francis walked into the room holding a xylophone mallet against his stomach in a way that would poke anyone who got too close to him and asked his dad for a hug. His dad pointed out the mallet and asked, "What kind of game are you playing?" Francis answered, "Poke a friend!" 

Ring it, Mr. Fran Fran!

Background: 1. When the phone is ringing, we might say, "The phone is ringing!" and then someone answers it. This has led Francis to believe that to ring a phone is to answer it. 2. Francis is three years old and calls himself Mr. Fran Fran. 3. Francis (and Anthony) often instruct me to say something, as in, "I want a cookie. You say, 'Fair enough!'" 4. We get a lot of pre-recorded advertising calls on our home phone. Rather than calling them robocalls like a normal person, when asked who was on the phone, I just say, "It was a robot."

Scene: Sitting in the living room, any day (it happens multiple times a week right now). The house phone rings.

Francis: You say, "You ring it, Mr. Fran Fran!"

Me: You ring it, Mr. Fran Fran!

Francis (answers the phone): Hello! Are you a robot?