For the Record: Story Behind Guinness's Book

To paraphrase Patsy, Have I got records on my mind! How could I not? My huge worry, since Jumpstart selected NOT NORMAN as its READ FOR THE RECORD© book for 2015, is that You-We-They might not to sign up to read on Oct. 22nd?! And miss what could be—will be if you help—The World’s Largest Shared Reading Experience ever—for The Record!

What exactly is The Record???

Well, since you asked: Guinness World Records (GWR), formerly known as The Guinness Book of Records and The Guinness Book of World Records, is an annually published listing of world records of “both human achievements and the extremes of the natural world.”

Sir Hugh Beaver, Quite the Shot!

Sir Hugh Beaver, Quite the Shot!

On the record: As it happened, Sir Hugh Beaver, Chairman of Guinness Breweries, on a shooting party in the North Slob, the morning of Nov. 10, 1951, took a shot at a golden plover, and missed—Lucky Plover, that!

An argument between the no doubt grumpy Sir Hugh and his cronies erupted over which was the fastest game bird in Europe: the golden plover or the red grouse? Later, back at Castlebridge House, while attempting to settle the argument, Sir Hugh realized it was impossible! There was no reference book to confirm what he knew to be true—that the golden plover was indeed Europe’s fastest game bird. (BTW: It is.[7][8]) Harumph!

1st Edition, Aug. 27, 1955

1st Edition, Aug. 27, 1955

It struck Sir Hugh that there were undoubtedly “numerous other questions debated nightly in pubs throughout Ireland and abroad,” -hopefully over pints of Guinness-but no book with which to settle such arguments. As one would, Sir Hugh took the problem to work with him.

As they say, the rest is, on Aug. 27th—my mom’s birth date—60 years history! The 1st Guinness Book of Records, a 198-page edition was presented to top-selling Guinness sellers for Christmas.

It was a marketing give away – it wasn’t supposed to be a money maker.
— –Sir Hugh Beaver

Speaking of Records: The book itself holds a world record: It’s the Best-selling copyright book of all time! (Excluding non-copyright works such as the Bible and the Koran.) And, although GWR doesn’t currently hold this record, (it did until 2000), it’s one of the Most Frequently Stolen Library Books in the U.S.[3] (Can’t tell you what’s #1. The FBI compiled a list—but it’s top secret.) 

Call me obsessed, but I did a search to find out if there were any World Record Goldfish.

I found some:

But, I didn’t find any record for the Most People Reading a Goldfish Book or for the Most Widely Read Goldfish. (Norman could so set that one—He is a voracious reader!)  

Which means, on Oct. 22nd we’re going for THE TRIPLE CROWN (gold, of course)! Sign Up now to Read for the Record

For The Record Playlist:

And in case, like Norman, you aspire to greatness:  How to Set A World Record 

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The "O-Fish-Al" Story via Jumpstart

Still flip-flopping over the news that thanks to Jumpstart, on October 22, 2015, Not Norman, A Goldfish Story will star in (with your help--please--help) The World's Largest EVER Shared Reading Event: Read for the Record®, Yes, NORMAN! Of course I jumped at the chance to guest post on the Jumpstart blog.

Then I freaked: Oh my!

How many kazillion folks read the Jumpstart blog?

I mean, dang, Jumpstart is a national early education organization...

It's not that I'm not used to writing blog posts. (After 10 years of pert-darn-near regular weekly posts, I should be.) But I write those blog posts to and for YOU, my peeps, whose names and faces I picture as I'm writing. I write my posts the way,  if letters were still our sole mode of long-distance communication, I would have writen, enveloped, sealed, stamped and mailed a letter to you.  (And yes, I know some of them, last post, for example, are a lot on the wordy side...aka Windy.)

So, nervous+delighted+honored, I wrote a guest post for the Jumpstart Blog. In it, I shared the story of how I got Norman--the story idea, not the goldfish...or are they one in the same? And, well, chock it up to excitement or nervousness, but, I may have gotten a little carried away.  I included some photos and may have shared more than I should have. You decide. As Nanny always said, "Words are one thing you can't take back."

Here's the link to the July 8, 2015 Jumpstart Blog Post: NOT NORMAN: THE O-FISH-AL STORY.

Happy Reading! (And please don't stop there . . . )


NORMAN AND I NEED YOUR HELP to make this year's World Read-Aloud the largest ever! (We do want to do our goldfish proud, don't we?)

Sign up to Read for the Record® on October 22, 2015 at

Pre-order your special edition of Not Norman, register to read, and download free activity materials and resources at Jumpstart.

Preflight: The Impetus for Change

Chances of flight delays must increase exponentially the more one flies. No doubt someone has calculated the statics.  Still, I'm always surprised and irritated (to put it mildly) when it happens to me.

“Remember when flying was glamorous and sexy, even fun?”

Honoring Lucky the Goldfish

Lucky the Goldfish is long gone. If I remember the story correctly, Lucky was a carnival goldfish my editor, Sarah, won at a fair. You know those Toss the Coin in the Fishbowl & Win games? Hence his name.

A Carnival Goldfish’s early life is not an easy one: Moving all the time; Late nights; Loud Music; Constantly dodging flying coins; grubby fingers messing in your water; fingers poking at your bowl . . .

Even those fortunate enough to be WON and taken to good homes, don’t usually live long. Mine didn’t. Lucky was truly one of the “lucky ones.” So was Sarah.

I've been thinking much about luck since I learned Jumpstart had chose my fishy little story to be their Read for the Record® 2015 book. Imagine: from all the noteworthy picture books published in the last 10 years they selected Not Norman, my goldfish story, illustrated by the funny, creative Noah Z. Jones. From conception to now, ours--Lucky's, Norman's & Mine--has been a true luck story!

This is not Lucky. Nor is this Lucky's bowl! Lucky lived in a nice tank with bubbles!

This is not Lucky. Nor is this Lucky's bowl! Lucky lived in a nice tank with bubbles!

For more than 9 years after Sarah carried her goldfish prize  home from the carnival in its plactic bag, Lucky flapped and fluttered around in his bowl, blowing bubbles, gobbling nibbles. He made sure Sarah never came home to an empty house.

And, in his quiet, fishy way, Lucky was responsible for my story, NOT NORMAN, A Goldfish Story being published.

Several years back, say 2002 or earlier, my agent heard Sarah speak at a conference. During the Q&A following Sarah’s presentation some one asked the question everyone always asks editors: Is there any story you are looking for?

Sarah burst into her Lucky the Goldfish story and shared how she would love, love, soooooo love to receive a manuscript about a goldfish. (I’ll have to ask her how many goldfish manuscripts she's received since.)

As it so happened, I had goldfish—a pond full of them—and a Goldfish picture book manuscript: Not Norman. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Jumpstart edition, in English & Spanish support their efforts to help children read & succeed!

The Jumpstart edition, in English & Spanish support their efforts to help children read & succeed!

People who call themselves “real pet people” i.e. dog, cat, horse, snake, bird, lizard, hamster lovers poke fun at us fishy folks. They think the only good pet is one who crawls, slithers, climbs or claws. They need the tactile connection those types of pets provide.

We fishy folks are beyond all that. We appreciate fish for what they are and do: A lot of what looks like nothing.

Fish swim around in their watery worlds, drifting, floating, bubbling,  dreaming fishing dreams while the rest of us are rushing, rushing, doing, wanting, driving and begging for more.

The only begging Lucky ever did was a meal time. And that wasn’t begging, really. That was more like a reminder: Hey! Yoo Hoo! Remember me while you’re stuffing that cracker into your gullet! How’s about tossing me a treat, too, while you’re at it?

Here’s to Lucky the Goldfish!           

Join Jumpstart's efforts to combat the word gap! Here's how: Sign up to Read for the Record® on October 22, 2015 at Pre-order your special edition of Not Norman, register to read, and download free activity materials and resources at Jumpstart.*

And, next time you find yourself at a Carnival, try your chances at the Goldfish Game. Who knows, you might get Lucky!

Honoring Lucky Playlist:

*BTW: Noah and I do not earn royalties for this; Proceeds fund Jumpstart's efforts.

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What if it Happened to You?

Sunday evening at about 6:33 pm (plus or minus a few seconds), the Evacuate Building Alarm in our apartment BLARED. By BLARE, I do not mean the annoying cricket sound of your household smoke alarm.

I mean foghorn blasting—BAAA-BAAA-BAAA-BAAA-BAAA—directly into our ears, Like this:

While our apartment building alarm does not come complete with a recorded “Please evacuate this building” message as does this Utube example, it registered loud and clear. Years of school  fire drill practices, and two personal housefire experiences, kicked in.  

I grabbed my purse, passports, Curtis (who wasn’t at all happy about being yanked away from his computer) and walked the seven flights downstairs and directly out the front door as we had been taught to do in all those school daze fire drills.

Hmmm Pirates of the Caribbean marauders might be welcome...

Hmmm Pirates of the Caribbean marauders might be welcome...

Of course, we were thinking—hoping--it was probably a false alarm. And, a part of us wondered if marauders were attaching the building again. Yes, marauders!

Our building stands at the edge of the sea, overlooking usually calm, innocuous, Gulf of Paria. A few years back, so the story goes (Curtis and I happened to be away at the time, but this is what Mimi & Brian told us): In the dead of night, marauders in boats—pirates perchance, drug runners more likely—tried to storm our building. Our keen eyed security guards spotted the approaching boats, threw on all the floodlights and set off the alarms, thus frightening the marauders away. Hooray!

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Needless to say, although my ears were plugged (Curtis’s weren’t…do not ask me why?), all senses were on high alert as we cautiously, quickly, yet calmly made our way down all those many flights. Here’s the weird thing: although ours is the central staircase in the building and each floor has about 10 apartments, we were the only people walking down.  Are we the only ones home this Sunday evening? I wondered. Could this be only a test of our Emergency Alarm System and everyone in the building but us had received the memo and thus were ignoring it? Did they know something we didn’t know?

Finally, as we rounded the 4th floor landing, we encountered a couple. “What’s happening?” They asked (I think. I did not unplug my ears to find out). “That’s the evacuation alarm,” I said, it what I know was my duh, what do you think, dummy voice, and continued onto the next flight down, hoping they’d follow our example.

The elder Chinese woman who lives on the 2nd floor and knows every single thing going on, was instead of leaving, walking back into her apartment when we rounded that curve, which made us think that it was indeed a false alarm. But there was no way we were going to back down—or, in this case, back up, especially as at the back up at this points was 6 flights.

The Emergency Alarm was still BLARING as we excited. After walking a safe distance from the building, we looked up to see what we could see.  The building wasn’t practically deserted. Far from it. Rather than evacuating, most of the occupants of the other apartments were hanging over the walkway railing, looking around and down, craning their necks to see what the heck was going on?

Think all these other apartments come equipped with rope ladders for emergency evacuation?

Think all these other apartments come equipped with rope ladders for emergency evacuation?

Watching them, watching us and each other and wondering, all I could think of was What if? Visions of Twin Tower victims jumping to escape the flames, of the balcony in Berkeley collapsing, of the earthquake damage in Kathmandu, of so many tragedies flashed through my mind.

As suddenly as it has sounded, the Emergency alarm stopped. With the residual siren still ringing in our ears, Curtis and I stood outside for a time. A few families, with children in pajamas, came strolling back into the apartment complex. They, more obedient that we, even, must have gathered at the Muster Point as per evacuation protocol. They smiled and nodded as they passed and we did too, all of us feeling as though we'd earned high marks on a pop quiz of sorts. This time, the Emergency Alarm had been only a test. But, What if

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Live Like a Dog. . . Cat. . . Fish!

You Dawg, you! . . . Sure, when said with a certain intonation it's a sideways compliment, but I personally never aspired to being a Dawg or Dog. Before now . . . 

"I really don't want to be dog either. But, I'm not sure a bunny is better option."

"I really don't want to be dog either. But, I'm not sure a bunny is better option."

Confession time: I read AARP magazine. (The subscription's not mine--really, it's not--It's my mother's...not that there's anything wrong with that.) Or, as they used to say about Playboy: "I read it for the articles..."

Of course I opened it. Kevin Costner aside, who can resist a lead line that reads"6 Bad Habits that are Really Healthy?

Of course I opened it. Kevin Costner aside, who can resist a lead line that reads"6 Bad Habits that are Really Healthy?

Moving on: An article titled  Our Dog Years in the Dec. 2014-Jan. 2015 issue, caught my attention last week. (So, I'm a little behind in my reading.) OMG I thought, wanting to rip it into shreds and compost it. What's the deal with all the books and movies starring dogs? It's as though mid-life crisis, once synonymous with mistresses and souped-up convertibles, is now all about dogs. Reminds me of the play Sylvia, in which an adopted dog becomes the "other woman" in a middle-aged couple's marriage. Funny play . . . Scary thought considering how many other recent movies feature leading men who love their dogs more than humans...Richard Gere, really?  

Curious about just how many mid-life dog crush movies have been published recently, I Googled "Dog-Lovers+Movies." This list popped up: 

The Greatest Dog Movies of All Time

List Criteria: Films must be about dogs or feature dogs / puppies as major characters

(Turns out it's an interactive list! We--you and me--can influence each movie's placement on the list by voting. I've hyperlinked it above in case you'd like to do some investigating--voting--dog movie watching later.)

Anyway, back to the article. As a non-dog lover, I must confess it was a bit of a yawn:

The best part was the end. (No disrespect intended, David Dudley.) The article closed with a nugget of advice from neuroscientist  Elizabeth Head.

Dr. Head studies aging beagles at the University of Kentucky. She’s noticed the plaques (hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease) found in aging dogs is similar to those found in humans (more similar even than those found in primates.) The reason, Head poses, might be that “living in our environment—our food, our water, our homes—has made dogs more vulnerable.”  That age-related dementia might actually be a “side effect of civilization.”

If, as Head suggests, domesticating dogs has made them prone to human “Old-timers” then might the reverse be true? Rather than “Gone to the dogs,” meaning something has “gone badly wrong and lost all the good it had,” is the converse true?  Maybe going to the dogs the better way? Rather than singing along, should we heed the call of the song: “Duh-duh-duh  duh da- dut/duh-duh-duh  duh da- dut/duh-duh-duh  duh da- dut/duh-duh-duh  duh da- dut/Hey baby…”

Dr. Head is confidant she will figure out how to “stop brain decline entirely in middle-age animals" (hopefully humans included). In the meantime, she's offered, via Dudley's article, this sage advice:

Everything you do for a dog to help them age well, you should do with them
— From “Our Dog Years” by David Dudley, AARP the Magazine, Dec 2014-Jan 2015.


  • Eat the best food you can afford
  • Go for a walk, even when it’s raining
  • Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that people you lick will not flinch
  • When someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy

So now I'm thinking: If we can learn all this from living like a dog, what wellness tips can we learn from our cats? Or our Fish?

Living Like a Dog Playlist:


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Jakarta News with Pictures!

Behold the power of pictures and posts: Miles and years vanish with a click, family's updated, old friends reacquainted. Maybe this is why Facebook--now shunned by youngsters--is so popular with us oldsters!  Calls to mind those old Bell Telephone slogans:

“The next best thing to being there”

”Reach out and touch someone”

Recently, I took a walk with friends from my old neighborhood. (note Tina: I did not write "old" friends). Tina mentioned how she had not received any of my Jakarta Stories * in some time and wondered how our Jakarta folk are doing. Well, some 5.2 miles later, I'd updated her, but dang my dogies were barkin' after. Which got me thinking: Tina is probably not the only one who received my posts that is curious about Rusnati, Aan, and everyone back in Jakarta. After all, after hearing so much about them for so long, folks from our Jakarta life had become, as sitcom characters do: friends. 

Allow me to digress a moment. (Jakarta news is coming, really!):  I don't know if it's an every Facebook buddy thing, or only for those of us with Facebook "Pages" ie my author page Kelly Bennett Books, but I receive weekly reports on how much attention my posts and page receives, including likes, shares & follows.  I also receive "helpful" offers to buy space for my posts. And booster messages movie idol Ronnie Reagan, "this one's for the gipper" quarterback might have given: "Come on, Kid, you're only 192 Likes away from 500! You can do it! Get those Likes! Get those Likes! Hup-Hup-Hike! "

As I write, Rusnati's grandaughter, Key, is in Bali on holiday with her folks!

As I write, Rusnati's grandaughter, Key, is in Bali on holiday with her folks!

What those booster messages should say is Post a cute picture, already? Because that what really grabs our attention: Throwback Thursday, Snapshot Sunday, Outtakes Any Day! We love those photographs! 

Which brings me to the long overdue Jakarta Stories, update with pictures, beginning with the newest:

Aan's oldest son, Ajie was married last weekend. So hard to believe that "little" Ajie (wouldn't he hate being called that) is married! Ajie is a college graduate. He works for MNC TV as a videographer. His bride,  Dewi, works in a local contractor.

The center photograph is of Aan's immediate family L-R, Izwan, Icha, Ajie, his bride, Dewi, Aan's wife, Entien, and Aan. 

Following Indonesian tradition, the bridal party wears batik fabric distinct to their region, and people from the same family will all wear the same bakik. (Makes it easy to figure out who's related to who. Dewi and Ajie's wedding dress is Central javanesse (Semarang). Aan explained that the bridal couple changed outfits 3 times. 

Mrs Kelly, we just already prepared 12 boxes of wedding gifts for Dewi: 2 paires of shoes, set of underwears, bed cover, towels, bags, dresses, fabrics, set of cosmetics, cakes, variety of fruits, set of praying and Qur’an, set of jewelry (golds).
— Note from Aan to Curtis and I, May 14, 2015
Aan and his youngest son, Izwan...twins

Aan and his youngest son, Izwan...twins

Izwan, was just seven when Aan began working for us, has proved to take after his father in the brains department. Since beginning school, he's been at the top of his class-#2 or #1. He tested into the bilingual Indonesian/English high school. He's in his 3rd year and #1 in his class. What's next? 

And Icha, Aan's daughter, majored in Public Relations in college. She's now working for a consulting company. 

Rusnati and her youngest daughter, Andrea, were at the wedding, too. Andrea, used to be a bit of a Tom-boy. She didn't like school. Loved sports. Love playing with her friends. In those ways, Andrea was much like Max (interesting that their birthdays are days apart.) Rusnati and I used to worry together about these "sedikit nekal" (a little naughty) children of ours. And, when she finished high school, like Max, Andrea didn't want to go to college (she wanted a job.) Turns out Andrea, like her older sisters, has a passion and talent for computers. And after working for awhile, Andrea went to college and works at SMS Digital Printing Service.

Andrea is 3rd from the left; Rustani 3rd from the right. 

Andrea is 3rd from the left; Rustani 3rd from the right. 

Rusnati-a quiet stranger when we first arrived-along with her husband, Rohemon, quickly became our caretaker, translator, guide, friend, family! Shortly after we left Jakarta, Rohemon passed. 

Still sad to say and think about, Rohemon, our patient, green-thumbed gardener, handyman, "Jaga" as safeguards of Indonesian homes are called, is gone. He passed away shortly after we left Jakarta. (Feels Like Rain post). In January, Rusnati and her family returned to Cirebon for a "Seremoni Seribu Hari" commemorating 1000 days since Rohemon passed. 

Rusnati cuddling her "cuci" grandbabies, Kenzi, Isa's son & Key

Rusnati cuddling her "cuci" grandbabies, Kenzi, Isa's son & Key


Linda, their oldest daughter, and her husband, married while we were still in Jakarta, Sept 2010 & we joyfully attended their reception. They met in college, both graduated with honors and work in IT. (No surprises there, when Curtis had computer issues he'd call and they'd zip over on their motorcycle to help.) In fact, the first time we met Agung was when he came with Linda one Sunday to recover data on our crashed computer. They have a daughter, Keysha, called "Key" now 2 1/2.

Rusnati & Rohemon's middle daughter, Lia, earned a Master's Degree in Computer from STTI I-Tech and teaches at Group Dosen Indonesia. She's married now and exciting news: She and her husband Isa are expecting a baby in October. 

L-R: Isa, Rusnati, Lia, Linda, Agung & Key

L-R: Isa, Rusnati, Lia, Linda, Agung & Key



Sugiman, our relief driver is doing well. When Joy and I were in Jakarta for our friend Lisette's 50th, he made a point of visiting (And, Aan took off work to drive us around.) We all met up at Rusnati's house. Sugiman was saving to buy a limo and form his own transport company. I'm thinking he has. 

And that's the end of my pictures and my update for now. What's especially nice is that our Jakarta folks are doing well. 

Sampai Jumpa! (Until next time!)

* For those of you new to my blog, I chronicled our 7 years in Indonesia in regular posts, some of which are available under the "Archives" tab: Jakarta Stories

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Ever think so vividly about doing something that you believe you did it? Or have a dream so real, you wake thinking it really happened? I do.  Sometimes, those night/day dreams gets me into trouble.

Just yesterday I was working through my email and came upon a note I was positive I answered. With my mind’s eye, I could picture myself typing it, actually clicking on the keys, watching the letters roll onto the page. When I saw that note still in my inbox I began to doubt. Had I dreamed it?

I keep a very tidy inbox, you see. I sort, respond, file emails daily (Sometimes more…it’s one of my favorite avoidance tactics.) I’ve devised an efficient filing system. Notes that need responses are sent to a file, along with my response, so I can refer back to the chain easily, if needed. That’s why that note in the inbox freaked me.

Stories come via dreams, too. The first time, was one of those the Ecstasy and Agony moments:

I dreamed I was in a glass & chrome, wall-to-wall white house. I was waiting for whomever to come out of a backroom, noticed a picture book on a white marble coffee table, picked it up and began reading. It was an absolutely original, adorable, rhyming story about a longhorn bull who finds a lost Holstein wandering in the desert, rescues her and later she rescues him. The last illustration on the last page pictured the smiling Longhorn and Holstein were standing together, in an expanse of was a wide open prairie, surrounded by fluffy white and black calves with tiny horns: Longsteins!

Imagine this holstein, but ball of wool plump with little horns

Imagine this holstein, but ball of wool plump with little horns

I woke myself up laughing at those adorable babies. And with a raging case of BOOK ENVY. I vivid recall turning the pages, thinking how delightful it was and sooooo wishing I had written it.

Then, I realized “I did!” That was my dream. My sub-consious working. Those were my Longsteins!

The opening lines were playing in my head:


Way out west were the sweet sage grows,

Where tumble weed tumble and the Rio Grande flows

Lived a herd of cattle, big and small.

A rangy Longhorn named Louie was in charge of them all!

On our walk and talk that morning, I shared the dream with my then writing partner, Ronnie. I told her what I could remember of the story—which wasn’t much—we  walk and talked the rest. Over the next weeks and months, we worked on Longhorn Louie. Then sent it out to several publishers. None of them wanted it. They didn’t want rhyme. (Or our rhyme) They didn’t want “Cowboy”, they didn’t want, didn’t want, blah blah blah…

Ever since then, I’ve learned to pay attention to my dreams. Whenever I have one that vivid or interesting, I hold tight to what I recall and write it down. And, when I'm short on ideas, I flip through it. (If nothing else it reminds me I can be creative. subconciously, at least.) I keep a notepad and paper in my nightstand.

Friend and former critique partner, author Kathy Duval, keeps Dream Journals.


"My stack of dream journals comes up to my elbow," Kathy noted on her website info page.

Kathy’s upcoming picture book, A Bear’s Year comes out this October.

Kathy has this quote on her website:

“No one is able to enjoy such a feast than the one who throws a party in his own mind.”

Selma Lagerlöf


Makes me wonder: Do Kathy's picture books comes from dreams, too?

(Her PB Take Me To Your BBQ, about an alien visitation feels like it!)




Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 

Langston Hughes

What of you?

What becomes of your dreams?

Do you let them slip away?

Oh yes, about that email response: I'll have to check on it... 

I DREAMED IT Playlist:

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