Friday, June 8, 2012


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you have imagined.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Whenever I see this Thoreau quote, I always think of dinosaurs.
You see, when my son was in kindergarten, his class created a special quilt for the school auction. The students were given the demanding task of gooping up their hands with paint and squishing them onto fabric, while the quilter handled the sharp and deadly implements – needle, thread, and whatnot.
Unfortunately, my son was out sick on the grand gooping day. And by the time the quilter returned two weeks later, she had forgotten which hand was needed for the project. Only when she was piecing it all together did she realize that one little dinosaur would be facing the wrong way.
I’m sure her immediate reaction was “Oh carp!” or some such. But being a true artist, she embraced the “flaw” and even dubbed the final masterpiece “Marching to the Beat of a Different Dinosaur.”
A couple of days before the auction, she brought the finished quilt to school and showed the kids the awesome work of art “they” had created.
My son was quick to point out his handprint to me.
I told him it was adorable, of course, and then asked him if there was anything “different” about his dinosaur.
“Well, YEAH (as in Duh, Mom) –
It’s the only one going the RIGHT way!”
As you can tell by the little green dino pictured above – he was NOT referring to literal direction.
HIS way was the RIGHT way.
Ah, the unshakable self-assurance of 5-year-old boys!
And isn’t that EXACTLY the kind of confidence we all need to heed Thoreau’s advice?
Especially when it comes to pursuing our art – we need to follow the call of our hearts and KNOW that OUR way is the RIGHT way.
Because when it comes to our dreams, we are the only ones who know which way to go.
And we need to trust that…
even when all the other dinosaurs are marching in the other direction.

They’re probably headed for the tar pits anyway.

By the way, the day that the quilter brought the kindergarten masterpiece to school, she actually pulled me aside and apologized for getting my son’s handprint wrong.
Was she kidding?
So, of course, I went to the school auction.
Yeah, it was the MOST money I have EVER spent on patchwork…
But it was worth every penny.

PROMPT: Dare to dream this weekend! What is the life you imagine? Now think of a step, even if it’s just a tiny one, that you can take in YOUR direction.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Farewell, Old Friend

You fail only if you stop writing.
~ Ray Bradbury
After 91 trips around the sun, Ray Bradbury has set off for new adventures. And oh, how my life has been made richer by his time logged on the planet.
Fahrenheit 451 is what I remember most about my entire 8th grade year. Well, that and the fact that my science teacher could write on the board using both hands at the same time.
Dandelion Wine remains one of my all-time favorite books, and my best defense against a neighbor’s pesticide use.
And of course, there’s Zen in the Art of Writing – a book that I actually carry with me at all times. You just never know when a traffic jam or child’s saxophone lesson will give you a chance to read a snippet and be inspired by Ray’s writing process…
“My stories run up and bite me on the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.”
His words also provide that swift kick I need on days when I just can’t face the toil of arranging and rearranging those same dang 26 letters…
“I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice.”
And Ray walked his talk. He was a disciplined writer who kept his 1,000-words-a-day “practice” well into his later years.
And all that practice paid off. He wrote over 600 short stories, 27 novels, as well as poetry, plays, jokes, and songs. He had honors and awards aplenty to show for his efforts, too – even his own “Dandelion Crater” on the moon!
Of course, now that he has moved on, a whole lot of folks have a whole lot of nice things to say about him. But I think the best compliment was offered by Ray’s own grandson who said, “He was the biggest kid I ever knew.”
So, here’s one more gem from Big Kid Ray…
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dreams made or paid for in factories.”

Travel well, Ray. Travel well.

PROMPT: Today’s a great day to honor Ray by working on that Bradbury List of yours. Write on!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

There’s No Escape

Here we are six days into June, and we haven’t even discussed the fact that it is National Accordion Awareness Month.
Be aware!
You can never tell when one of those accordions will sneak up on you.
Trust me, I would know – I grew up attending weddings in Pennsylvania. At those festive events, you could never be sure if somebody was going to bring alcohol for spiking the punch bowl, but you could bet the farm and your bottom dollar that someone would sneak in an accordion.
And the next thing you knew all heck would break loose, and folks would start bustin’ their moves to the (big surprise) Pennsylvania Polka. Of course, one accordion ditty was never enough, so there was sure to be a Hop-Scotch, Licorice Stick, and Hoop-Dee-Doo jam.
As the night wore on, the Beer Barrel Polka was unavoidable – quickly followed by at least three encores of In Heaven There Is No Beer (that’s why we drink it here).
Yep, I have “enjoyed” them all.
In fact, whenever my sister and I hit the floor, nearly everyone stopped to watch. In truth this had nothing to do with our dance skills, and everything to do with our interpretation of polkas…
as, well…
roller derby without the skates.
Accordions make people crazy like that.
Just ask The Who.
They wrote a song about this phenomenon way back in 1975…

Well, they said it was about accordions.

PROMPT: Ironically, the word “accordion” is derived from the German word “akkord” meaning “agreement or harmony.” Today would be a great day to add a touch of irony to your tale. You could also think about what your main character’s favorite musical instrument might be. Then again, you could just YouTube The Who’s Squeeze Box and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hit the Trail!

And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in the stones, and good in everything.
~ William Shakespeare

If you are looking for a way to hike up your creativity, then look no further than the dusty trail. For, my friends, it appears that SCIENCE has proven the Billy Bard correct.
Recent research from the University of Kansas found that the more time a person spends in nature, the more creative he or she becomes.
In the study, one group of backpackers was given a test for creativity before setting out on a long hike. A different troop was given the same test four days into their trek.
Results showed that the second group of hikers – the ones who were well into their “nature journeys” – scored nearly 50% higher in creativity!
The director of the study reported that “Nature is a place where our minds can rest, relax, and let down those threat responses (obviously, she has never been chased by a bear). Therefore, we have resources left over to be creative and problem solve.”
HOWEVER, before we get too over-excited and spend all of our pin money on mess kits and trail mix, I think that we need to address a major confounding variable within this research.
I call it… the bath factor.
As in, one can assume that the first group of backpackers, just setting off with high hopes on the high trail, was most likely clean and fresh. While group two – not so much.
This issue is further complicated by today’s quote-meister, William Shakespeare, who just so happened to live out a large part of his life in the 1500’s.
Do you know how often the people of England bathed in the 1500’s?
Double hmmmm…
What if it’s really crud that causes all that creative thinking?
Could it be that the REAL reason for writer’s block is…
personal hygiene?

Inquiring minds want to know.

PROMPT: Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but filth apparently makes one hell of a writer. So hit the trails instead of the showers and see what it does for that creative mind of yours. Who knows – you may even find a tongue in a tree or, better yet, a book in a babbling brook.

Monday, June 4, 2012

It’s Good to Be Queen

“I have to be seen to be believed.”
~ Queen Elizabeth II
“I create feelings in others that they themselves don’t understand.”
~ Lightning McQueen
“…well-versed in etiquette, extraordinarily nice.”
~ Killer Queen by, well, Queen

It is a great day to celebrate Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II! On Saturday, she commemorated her Diamond Jubilee. That’s 60 years of working the same job and living in the same house without dying from boredom. You go, Girl!
Without a doubt, Queen Elizabeth II is an extraordinary royal. And when you compare her to a few other queens we know, it is easy to see why…

Elizabeth II has never peddled a poisoned apple like the Evil Queen in Snow White.
She has never abducted children like Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen.
As far as we know, Elizabeth II does not live backward in time like Lewis Carroll’s White Queen, nor has she been known to shout, “Off with their heads!” like his Queen of Hearts.
Unlike Titania, Queen of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Elizabeth II has never fallen in love with a Bottom.
And thus far (fingers crossed), Elizabeth II has not turned into a toad like the wicked Witch Queen in The Tale of the Laidley Wyrm.

Well, there you have it. Queen Elizabeth II wins the Extraordinary Queens Contest, hands down.
Or rather, hands up –
Because, boy howdy, that woman can out-wave them all, too.

PROMPT: Yep, there’s the Snow Queen, the Evil Queen, the White Queen, and the Queen of Hearts. But let us also not forget chess queens, queen bees, fairy queens, beauty queens, drama queens, and, of course, drag queens. Surely, there’s a queen you can write about today. Or you can just spend your time bossing everyone about and being a royal pain. Your choice.