7-Minute Stretch #9 Poetry Challenge-Yoo Hoo! Santa!

Time’s flying—soon Santa will be too!  Naughty or nice, sweet or spice, nobody wants to get left off his list. Officially, the second week in November is “Dear Santa Letter” week. Take a moment to update your wish list, then grab a pen and let ‘er rip:

Poetry Challenge #9

Dear Santa Baby . . . 

Write a letter to Santa. If you’ve been “nice” tell Santa why you deserve to be treated especially nice this holiday season. If you’ve been “naughty”… well, you’ve got some explaining to do.

For extra credit, try writing your letter to Santa in rhyme or song lyrics.

For inspiration, listen to the 1953 recording of Eartha Kit singing “Santa Baby,” written by Joan Javits & Philip Springer: 

Set the timer for 7 minutes.

Start writing!

Don’t think about it too much; just do it.

And, if you do join us in the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge be sure to let us know by posting the title, a note, or if you want, the whole dang poem, in the comments!

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Steve Got the Jobs Done

Steve Jobs’ Apple/Mac/IPod/Pad/Phone legacy has Paul Bunyaned to such epic proportions it feels as though his name should be All Caps: STEVE JOBS, but he was just the black turtleneck Apple guy, to me. That changed the other day when I picked up an old copy of Newsweek and he was the cover story: “American Genius . . . How He Changed Our World.”

We subscribe to Newsweek. Curtis reads every issue, in order, no matter how long it takes, or how old the issue may be. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were a monthly, but 4 or 5 issues a month stacks up, literally…

No long ago, I noticed him reading an issue featuring Mitt's bid for president and asked him why he reads old news. He noted that knowing the after makes reading the before interesting. He said it’s was especially fascinating to note how perceptions shift & develop. I said, “pass me that issue” and used it as a coaster.

Curtis loves the magazine; I decorate with it. Make that loves the “e-zine” and “decorated” past tense.

The stacks are dwindling. After 79 years in print Newsweek went digital Jan 1, 2013. The last magazine was printed that December, the issue I picked up was Sept 5th, 2011. Translation: we only have about a side-table sized stack left to read. (FYI: Newsweek's back in print, but Curtis prefers the e-zine now.)

Call me fickle, but now that I’m losing them, I’ve started reading and enjoying our back issues (I always did enjoy history more than current events). Likewise with Steve Jobs. Now that he’s dead, I wanted to know why he's such a big deal.

The lead article, “Exit the King” by Alan Deutschman (Sept 5, 2011 Newsweek) gave the blah-blah on this “misfit, raised by adoptive parents,” likening Jobs upbringing to “Harry Potter” and “a wizard among muggles.” By the time I reached the end, I believed it! Jobs was a wiz. A “think outside the box” master. Whose greatest innovation, according to Deutschman, wasn’t Apple, Mac or the IPhone crowds camped out to buy, it was ITunes—not the music, the payments—technically “micropayments”! The technology that enabled “more than 200 million consumers to entrust him with their credit-card information” so they could make tiny purchases at the click of a button was Jobs’ Houdini, his grandest trick. Now you see it, now you don’t —99 cents, 49 cents, $1.99… What a Wiz!

If ever oh ever a wiz Jobs was, an accompanying article, The 10 Commandments of Steve by Leander Kahney, pulled back the curtain to reveal the mechanics behind Jobs’ mastery.

Turns out it wasn’t wizardry or witchcraft, magic or luck. Jobs had a gimmick.

It's a focused 10 item list of what Kahney called his “Commandments.” (I don't know if the list is Jobs, or whether Kahney, or someone else created it.) Regardless, while studying those 10 Commandments, it struck me that Jobs wasn’t so different from any of us. He had a dream, a vision, a goal, as do I, and as do you. The difference is, Jobs achieved his. . .

So what if . . . what if, instead of doing whatever we have or haven’t been doing that has or hasn’t helped us achieve our goals, what if we appropriate the So-successful-he-deserves-All Caps STEVE JOBS 10 Commandments? Steve got the Jobs done!

If we use the same voodoo and do do what he did, we can, too!

Below are The 10 Commandments of Steve with a reminder snippet from the article. With these as guides, I have created a complimentary 10 Commandment List for myself. As you'll read, mine are geared toward improving my writing. These Commandments could similarly be adapted and applied to whatever is your passion: family, work, art. . . You name it, then get after it!

10 Commandments to Getting IT Done:

1.       JobsGo for Perfect: “Jobs sweats the details...”
 

Mine: Do my best work. Revise, Proofread, Revise again. Details do matter: spelling, punctuation, names, dates, etc.

2.       JobsTap the Experts: “Jobs hired architect I.M. Pei to design the NeXt logo…”
 

Mine: Don’t try to DYI what you're not good at or don't enjoy; call on others to help, ask advice, hire experts

3.       JobsBe Ruthless: “Jobs is as proud of the products he has killed as of the ones he will release.”
 

Mine: Apply that critical eye to all efforts. Compared mine to what’s out there. If I can't be objective have others critique it.

4.       Jobs: Shun Focus Groups: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”—acts as a “one-man focus group.”
 

Mine: Own my own opinion! Trust myself! Don’t wait for others to validate an idea, follow my vision.

5.       Jobs: Never Stop Studying: “When designing early brochures for Apple, Jobs poured over Sony’s.” Inspiration for the 1st Mac case came from studying German & Italian car bodies.
 

Mine: Study! Read new publications, Schedule "Bookstore Day", take classes, attend workshops and conferences.

6.       Jobs: Simplify: Jobs philosophy is “constant simplification.” He ordered IPod designers to lose all the buttons, including on/off.
 

Mine: Keep it simple, stupid: Cut word, revise, and don’t get too clever!

7.       Jobs: Keep Your Secrets: At Apple, nobody talks. “The secrecy allowed Jobs to generate frenzied interest for his surprise product demonstrations.”
 

Mine: Do not show/share/discuss a project until I have a solid draft.

8.       Jobs: Keep Teams Small: The original Mac team was 100 people. If one was hired, someone else left. “Jobs was convinced he could remember the first names of only 100 people.”
 

Mine: Build a small team of trusted supporters. Don’t spread myself too thin. Say no.

9.       Jobs: Use More Carrot than Stick: Jobs “charisma [was] his most powerful motivator. “Enthusiasm was the primary reason the Mac team worked 90-hour weeks for 3 years.”
 

Mine: Be positive, show enthusiasm!  If I’m not excited by something, no one else will be either.

10.   Jobs: Prototype to the Extreme: Apple “architects and designers spent a year building a prototype store in a secret warehouse” . . .  Jobs scraped it and started over.

Mine: Create picture book dummies. Print work out & Read Aloud.

What better way to begin a new year than with a new plan. Now Let's follow Steve's lead and get those jobs done! Happy Creating!

Steve Got the Jobs Done Playlist:

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Guts, Not Buts

She was bashing her forehead against the wall. 

It was the January VCFA Writing for Children & Young Adults MFA residency in Montpellier, Vermont. Ice, cold, snow, fraught with plagues: illness, broken bones, death, disease . . .  

In her post, Uma writes:

Uma's newest title...slightly heroic is something she knows about . . . 

Uma's newest title...slightly heroic is something she knows about . . . 

Give yourself a boost and read at least as far down as that quote in Uma's post. You'll be glad you did.  Here's the link:

Encouragement is something everyone needs all through life. Encouragement is just a damn nice thing to do for another person.
— Uma Kirishwami in her post

Writing, Encouragement, and “Poetry” on Write at Your own Risk blog post. 

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Happy Tears, "The Gap," and Embracing Rudy

I’m clicker challenged. After my boy Max left for college, I'd phone him when Curtis was out of town. Not because I was lonely. Not because I missed him. Not to see what he was doing or how he was doing. 

Max in Prescott, AZ (note the squatter behind him.)

Max in Prescott, AZ (note the squatter behind him.)

But to ask how to play a movie (“Videos” we called them.)

I share this not to show what a heartless mother I was. But by way of an explanation as to why, from 10:30-midnight last night, I watched a football movie called “Rudy.*"

 

The only clicker I’ve mastered in our uber tech media system is the TV channel changer “Guide” button. 

The only clicker I’ve mastered in our uber tech media system is the TV channel changer “Guide” button. 

 

It was either Rudy, HGTV, Full House, Crime or Reality. Those were my choices.  Faced with a pile of ironing and nursing a HGTV hangover, I opted for Rudy. By the final scene I was sniveling, slobbery, soggy mess of happy tears.

As I sniffled and dripped through the final credits, I found myself wishing it were replaying so I could watch it again. Which got me wondering:

What about it made me so miserably, snottily, soggily happy?

I’m Rudy. I'm not the 3rd of 14 children; dyslexic, or a 5'6" 165 lb. pip-squeak aspiring to play Notre Dame Football; nor would Sean Astin play me in a movie (I hope). But, when it comes to hopes and dreams, I’m Rudy.

“Everyone striving to do creative work—be that as a writer, artist, actor, et al—is a Rudy.”

Unless—UNTIL—we are recognized for our creative work, we are a Rudy. Every one of us is an underdog. We are the little engines they say “can’t.” We are too this; not enough that. We may be almost, but . . . We are wrong.  

“And the biggest-baddest-hardest part of being a Rudy is that even after we are recognized for our creative work, we will still be Rudy.”

Because our appreciation for creative work is what draws us to do it, there is a disparity between our skill level and what we recognize as good—what Ira Glass calls “The Gap” in a vimeo of that title*. And because that drive to go farther, experiment, stretch is inherent to creators, our skill level will always chase our sense of taste, our appreciation. So while it can shrink, the Gap never goes away. 

“We begin as Rudy, and unless we quit, we will finish as Rudy.”

That’s why watching Rudy brings on the Happy Tears. Because it is so darn hard, but that doesn't stop him. Rudy set a goal, fought his his way to it, and won.

He could. He did. So maybe we—all of us Rudys—can too!

So what’s a Rudy to do?

Here's Ira Glass's Advice on how to close the gap:

“ Do a lot of Work

Put Yourself on a Deadline

Know it takes a while

Fight your way through the doubts”

— Ira Glass from the vimeo (Link below)

Watch: Ira Glass on “The Gap”

Read: More about Rudy Ruettiger

LIsten: To the Rudy Theme Song.

                Thanks for Reading!

 

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A Pregnant Pause

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the millworkers sing in CarouselJune is bustin’ out all over…”  Flowers are budding, birds are chirping, bees buzzing and as a recent grandmother to Ben,

Bennett experienced the wonders of Indepencence day: Parades, fireworks & watermelon!

Bennett experienced the wonders of Indepencence day: Parades, fireworks & watermelon!

Great aunt for the second time: 

                        Welcome to the World Felicity Allain Smith, born June 9th, 2014.

                        Welcome to the World Felicity Allain Smith, born June 9th, 2014.

And recently revealed gran-to-be:

    Lexi & Ryan are expecting, their baby’s due the end of the year.

    Lexi & Ryan are expecting, their baby’s due the end of the year.

I have babies on the brain, literally and literate-ly.

They—Farmers in the know— say trees always produce best after a “hard” year (“hard” being either an especially cold winter or hot, dry summer). Which might be the reason for the largess . . . although I’m not questioning or complaining. Rather, I’m simply, joyfully, reveling…and pondering gestation:

Elephant gestation takes 547.9 – 669.6730 days (the longest period for mammals).

Salamanders—tiny as they are—about the same. And, considering it, size-for-size, mother discomfort, bulkiness, effort-wise, probably the same elephantian experience too.

Velvet worm—actually NOT a worm and NOT velvet—takes up to 456.553 days,

Velvet worm—actually NOT a worm and NOT velvet—takes up to 456.553 days,

From conception to birth cat's gestation takes 58-65 days. (No wonder they're such hussies!)

 

Manatees 396 days on average.

Manatees 396 days on average.

Donkeys, "Jennys"  330-440 (with lots of variables), camels take 410ish.

Giraffes between 400-460, rhinos about the same, seals and sea lions: 330-350 days.

Giraffes between 400-460, rhinos about the same, seals and sea lions: 330-350 days.

Whales and dolphins: 517.426 (on average with some sperm whales taking 578), humans: 268 days give or take . . . 

Whales and dolphins: 517.426 (on average with some sperm whales taking 578), humans: 268 days give or take . . . 

 As for novels??????

Cause for my literary revelry stems from a cluster of new books by writer friends. With one exception, all by classmates of mine from VCFA. As I have been there through all of these books since inception, in some cases offering a shoulder, always watching admiringly, I’ve declared myself “auntie” to them and as such entitled to muse:

Here are some of the Unreliable Narrators at VCFA last summer.  B.R: Trinity, Cindy, Sarah, Barb, Cynthia; F.R:  Tam, Kelly, Erin.  I fully expect all to be published authors!

Here are some of the Unreliable Narrators at VCFA last summer.  B.R: Trinity, Cindy, Sarah, Barb, Cynthia; F.R:  Tam, Kelly, Erin.  I fully expect all to be published authors!

I’ll begin with the exceptional Russell J. Sanders, who I first met back in/around 2000 when he was a newly retired High School English/Theater teacher and wanna be author at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston. Russell recently celebrated the birth of his second novel, which is garnering excellent reviews, Special Effects (Dreamspinner Press, 2014): More about Russell:

How long did Special Effects take from idea to sale?

About 2191.45 days . . . 

Gestation:  about   2191.45 days (with, as Russell noted “ some stops and starts”

Gestation: about 2191.45 days (with, as Russell noted “ some stops and starts”

Erin Moulton’s third novel came out this June. This being her third, one might think the whole “birthing a novel” thing would have lost its novelty for her. Maybe that’s why Erin “made things interesting” this year, but combining the birth of her newest novel, Chasing the Milky Way, with the birth of her first human baby, Tucker! Oh, yeah, and if that wasn’t excitement enough, timing it all to coincide with the date her new manuscript for her work in progress was due. More about Erin: 

Gestation: It's a bit of a blurrrrrr

Gestation: It's a bit of a blurrrrrr

Jennifer Wolf Kam's path has been by award-hopping to publication! A 3-time finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, Jen first won publication of her ghost story, White House, in Hunger Mountain. Spectacularly, publication of her debut novel came as a result of writing 2 of 5 finalist in the NAESP 2013 Children’s Book ContestMore about Jen! 

Gestation:    5 years: 1826.21 days

Gestation:  5 years: 1826.21 days

Sarah Tomp, author of my often lauded, put-it-back-in-print fav, The Red, White and Blue Goodbye, had a relatively easy time of it with her debut moonshine novel, My Best Everything, which “walks the line between toxic and intoxicating” The gestation time was only 1 1/2 years=547.9632996 days!  More about Sarah:

Gestation: about 1 ½ years:  547.863298611 days

Gestation: about 1 ½ years:  547.863298611 days

Tamera Ellis Smith, who’s writing credits include a first-person essay in  BREAK THESE RULES: 35 YA Writers on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself,  welcomes her debut novel Another Kind of Hurricane, August 2015.  (Publication is scheduled to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.) Here's More about Tam!

So, Tam, how long did it take to write Another Kind of Hurricane?:  Almost 9 years . . . 3287.18 days, with “A lot of starts and stops along the way.  Sometimes big stops.”

Last but not least for this crop: Teresa Harris, author of the spunky picture book, Summer Jackson: Grown-Up,  won two prizes (one for humor) for this novel-in-progress while we were still at VCFA.

Teresa's WIP, acquired by Clarion, is forthcoming (I could not find a pub date on the web.) So by my calculations, gestation time: 5.6 years=2045.36 days. However, if you count post-sale as gestation,* the interview announcing the sale was Feb of 2012 and Teresa’s book hasn’t been published yet, gestation's is ongoing. So make that 2921.94 and counting . . . More about Teresa 

 

Why the disparity?

I like to think of it in shark terms. Sharks are K-selected reproducers, (as are, cats aside, the other animals noted above.) Rather than producing a large number of poorly developed offspring, “they produce a small number of well-developed young.” In this way offering their offspring the best possible chances of surviving. Additionally, in these animals, birth can be delayed depending on a variety of external pressures.

That’s why I’m thinking shark. Maybe it isn’t’ about how badly we want to publish . . . what brilliant writers we are . . . the fantastic story premise we’ve dreamed up . . . Or about everyone, anyone, our expectations. Maybe there are other forces beyond our control determining how long it takes.

“You can feel it in your heart/
You can see it in the ground/
You can see it in the trees/
You can smell it in the breeze/
Look around! Look around! Look around!”
— June's Bustin' Out All Over by Rogers & Hammerstein

* The question of whether a book is “gestating” in that time between being sold and publication is up for debate. Might this time be the equivalent of Novel neo-natal?--It certainly adds to the w-a-i-t-i-n-g t-i-m-e. . . tick-tock

Care to give a little listen?? JUNE IS BUSTIN' OUT ALL OVER on Utube

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An Anthor's Fear . . .

If a tree falls in the forest and noone is near, does it make a sound?

The question was first posed by Philosopher  George Berkeley, in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (pub. 1710). Here's the passage "But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park [...] and nobody by to perceive them. [...] 

Help! I'm falling and I can't get up . . . 

Help! I'm falling and I can't get up . . . 

In June 1883, in the magazineThe Chautauquan, the question was posed, "If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?"

The question was answered with an emphatic NO!

 "Sound is the sensation excited in the ear when the air or other medium is set in motion."[3] . In other words, if there is no ear near to hear it, there is no sound. 

If a book is published and nobody reads it? Then it is no book. 

Spoken or not, this is every author's fear. And we are a fearful lot: 

         First,  we fear we won't be able to tell our story . . . 

         Then,  we fear our story will never be published . . . 

         After, we fear no one will want to read our book. . .  

And in-between, before and after there are a byzillion other smaller fears... (Is it any wonder so many notable authors, as Mr. Bojangles put it,  "drinks a bit"?)

They make housecalls . . . 

They make housecalls . . . 

 

 

 

 


 

 

That's why I did it--4 am wake-ups, 3 flights, 6 hours drive--Why I went to Fenton, MO, where, thanks to Deborah, the Barnes and Noble Community Relation's Rep, and Rebecca Grose, my publicist, visited 6 schools, gave 6 school and 2 store presentations, to read. Read it I did. I read VAMPIRE BABY at least a dozen times, and NOT NORMAN, A Goldfish Story, too! 

What ohhhh, what a joyful time it was! 

 

Gretchen, the brand new Guffey Elem librarian, came by the store after work just to scoop up copies for her library!

Gretchen, the brand new Guffey Elem librarian, came by the store after work just to scoop up copies for her library!

 


 

Angie and "Granny from Philly" brought the triplets, Jacob, Ryan & Kevin, by for Storytime (and Granny asked where I got my hair cut, but didn't think it was worth the trip to my Trini hairdresser, Helen...)   

Angie and "Granny from Philly" brought the triplets, Jacob, Ryan & Kevin, by for Storytime (and Granny asked where I got my hair cut, but didn't think it was worth the trip to my Trini hairdresser, Helen...)

 

Mrs. O, the Trautwein Elem librarian broadcast the program and answers to their most excellent questions throughout the school. I've met David Shannon...does that count??? And yes, it really did take me 2 years to write that book with just those many words...

Mrs. O, the Trautwein Elem librarian broadcast the program and answers to their most excellent questions throughout the school. I've met David Shannon...does that count??? And yes, it really did take me 2 years to write that book with just those many words...

B&N Children's Section welcome

B&N Children's Section welcome

What these pictures don't show is a couple hundred K-2nd graders, in all manner of costume and hair-do, eyes bright, shaking their fingers and shouting out "NO BITE!"

Music to my fearful author's ears!

The "I VANT MY VAMPIRE BABY" Contest begins Oct. 15. Enter to win!

Link: http://kellybennett.com/blog/2013/10/i-vant-my-vampire-baby-contest-details

Chances Are the Chances Are Awfully Good

What Inspires: 2nd Chances! It’s the New Moon and the beginning of the Chinese New Year 4709: Year of the Black Water Dragon!’s Celebration! A 2nd chance to make a fresh start of 2012; a 2nd chance to commit to change. Chinese tradition on New Years’ houses are swept clean. Old thoughts, deeds, misdeeds are brushed out the door. Out with the old; in with the new. New Resolve! New Ideas! New Slate!

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Chinese New Year!

 

The first day of the 2012 Chinese New Year is today—January 23, 2012 in China's time zone. This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system. But, according to all my Internet research, the first day of the Chinese New Year is Feb. 4th.

The Year of the Water Dragon comes only once every 60 years. 2012 is the year of the Male Water Dragon.

Are you are Dragon? Know a Dragon? Want to be prepared for the Dragon year? Here’s more about the Dragon:

“The Dragon is a legendary creature. It can survive on the ground, in the water, and in the sky. Dragon is mystic, misty, blurred, unreachable and unpredictable animal. When Dragon has attraction relationship with the other animals, Dragon is quite likely to hide its Earth characteristic. When Dragon meets Rat, Dragon will show more Water characteristics. When Dragon meets Rabbit, Dragon will fully support Wood characteristic in the Rabbit. When Dragon meets Chicken, Dragon will turn itself into Metal identity. Dragon is a stranger to Dog. When Dog meets Dragon, Dog will bark and prepare for fighting. Dragon is kind of lonely. It's hard for other animals to build love or romantic relationship with Dragon.” Chinese Forecast website

What does the Year of the Black Dragon mean?

“Dragon contains Earth, Water and Wood. If your Lucky Element is Water, then you will have pretty good luck in 2012. If your Lucky Element is Earth, then you will gain some degree of good luck in 2012. The Dragon is the last year of Wooden Cycle, which is from 2010 to 2012. If your Lucky Element is Wood and you do well in the 2011 Rabbit year, then your luck will continue.”

It’s really all about knowing your “Lucky Element.” But first, you must find your Lucky Element. After finding your Lucky Element, you can click over to see a graph of the rise and fall of your life.

Luck if you've ever been a lady to begin with,  Luck be a lady. . . Happy New Year, Take 2!