Category Archives: Writing

A Short Story -Uncovered

Bob had decided his morning run was going to be part euphoric and part dreadful. For the former, he was on an unanticipated paid vacation that would allow him to spend additional time on the golf course, as well as convincing his wife of thirty years to have a few more dinners with him, in lieu of shopping for trinkets she didn’t need.

For the latter, there was a sense of dread at being alone with his own thoughts for the next five miles. Oh sure, the Frank Sinatra blasting in his ears might mitigate the sound of the issues he was wrestling with in his mind, but he knew better. Adding to his anxiety was the eery fact that the buildings he was running past – usually bustling with life, artwork, debates, and history – stood quietly, as if their only purpose now was to hold up the sky.

As he turned down the avenue, he inevitably began to think about the recent turn of events. Specifically the issue that precipitated his unscheduled vacation. He struggled for clarity as to how he really felt about the subject as an individual versus how he presented himself when part of a team. Although he was seemingly just one person, in reality, he represented so many more. And with too many egos and no consensus on the horizon, was this really what he signed up for in the first place? Endless arguing and agendas?

Approaching an intersection, he cautiously looked both ways before proceeding. His mind so full of thoughts and Sinatra though, he didn’t hear the taxi cab blare its horn.

Upon awakening in the hospital, he could hear the doctors arguing about saving his life with a woman in a business suit who was advocating for the most affordable course of action.

“Affordable? Do they know who I am?” He thought to himself. It was a question he couldn’t ask aloud though, with the all of the tubes protruding forth from his severely deflated lungs via his mouth. Questions that struck fear in his weakened heart, because at the time of the accident, he had no identification on him.

As he faded in and out of consciousness and heard the doctors and the woman in the suit ramble on and on about the shutdown ending, Obamacare going into effect and the like, he realized his vacation was now over, and he would have to go back to work. But as the doctors and businesswoman argued both sides of his life to no satisfactory conclusion, Senator Robert Servison’s eyes closed for the very last time.

On his death certificate, the cause of death simply read, Politics.

Peace.

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A Short Story – The New Writer

Natalie wondered if she would ever make it as a writer. In a way, she had arrived late to the game. While she’d always loved the written word and was quite good at expressing herself with a pen and paper, it still didn’t equate to the volumes of work successful writers had amassed by her age.

Many of her writing projects to this point revolved around corporate affairs. A press release here, a company statement there, and even the solemn task of a writing a recall notice for a product that had taken lives. All of which was done just on the other side of receiving her weekly paycheck.

So when she decided on a creative writing path – leaving the doldrums of describing the features and benefits of the latest must-have product behind her – had she veered too far off course? Life changes come in many forms, and she wondered if she was redefining herself a bit too dramatically, a bit too late, and for a bit of what? Were the company mission statements really all that bad?

These are the thoughts Natalie was having as she was sitting in her local library. Today was her first book signing and the turnout had been mediocre at best. Of course, the family and friend well-wishers were there, for which she was most thankful, but her core audience was missing. There was not a single child in sight.

So while she packed up and courteously smiled, thanking everyone for coming, she was startled by the little voice behind her saying, “Am I too late?” Natalie turned around to see a raven haired boy about 10 years of age, clutching a tattered and well-read copy of her book.

All he asked was, “Can you please sign this?”

All she heard was, “You’ve made it.”

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To a Child: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I am a artist at heart. I majored in it in college (along with marketing) and ended up on a non-fine arts career path. How? Who knows. Life takes over and that’s that. I regret it often, but I love soaking up everything I can from others who chose the path I didn’t. I am especially mesmerized by children’s book illustrators as they have the daunting task of taking a childlike view of the world and translating simple subjects into pieces of art a two-year old can understand. It is truly amazing. Like magic.

So one thing I stress when reading to my children are the emotions, colors, and actions conveyed by the pictures in each book I’m reading. When the words and illustrations blend flawlessly, a masterpiece is created for all to enjoy. Here are some of my favorite children’s illustrators and the reasons why:

Mark Teague is a genius. Anyone who can make a dinosaur so emotive is brilliant. You just want to hug each and every one of them; despite their size, scales, and claws. Felicia Bond uses white like a pro, by pulling her subjects front and center. A giant moose in a teeny tiny sweater is priceless. Sandra Boynton is the queen of simplistic charm. Placing pupils on eyeballs may seem like a mundane task, but those two black dots speak volumes when illustrating a hippo staring quite uncomfortably at his rabbit friend’s broccoli stew – “ew”. Jan Brett has cornered the market on texture. You can actually feel the finely weaved wool of the mitten scratch your eyes. Dr. Seuss is just plain ol’ fun. Not only are his verses rhythmically light and full of dance, his characters are too. Unrealistically curling furry toes to masterful lengths makes all the difference in the world. David Shannon is a nut, and I love it (so does my daughter who makes me read Alice the Fairy every night), and so are his characters. His wild and crazy offline pen marks and self-styled font superbly matches the storyline of each of his books. Last but no least is Eric Carle. With colors and texture, he boils down creatures of all sizes (not literally – ew) to be palatable (double ew) to a toddler who craves predictability.

A great children’s book can convey the story through pictures alone as well. A superb example of this is the book Hug, by Jez Alborough. He says it all via his emotion filled pictures and by only writing the words, “Hug”, “Bobo”, and “Mommy”. Books like these allow the readers – big and small – to become the writers of the storyline. Another good one along this vein is Good Night Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann. It is a great accomplishment to say so much without saying much at all.

Add to the “life imitating art” file, when my daughter was 2 1/2 years old, she only spoke gibberish. Speech therapy ensued. But she was able to get her intentions across by illustrating them with her body movements. So the pictures in her books were teaching her how to get along in the world, even more so than the words. These wonderfully talented illustrators provided her with valuable tools when everything else seemed to be failing, including myself. She eventually learned to speak, although pronouns are still kicking her butt, but I’ll always delight in the imprint Sandra Boyton’s hippo illustration made on her from day one. That being, she can make her pupils go “hippo sideways” at any given moment to express disgust and annoyance at anything – even broccoli stew.

Peace.

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6 Seconds

Fleeting moments seem to be becoming the norm in this world of instantaneous connections, messages, and social media feeds. 78.1% of the population is online. From shopping to cruising through YouTube videos to socializing and gaming, the engagement is a matter of flitting in and out of one thing and on to another in minutes, or even seconds. Sure, there are the 30 minute TV episodes and movie downloads that last longer, but 30 hours a week on average (40 for Millenials), is spent on tuning into conversations, pop culture, news, Twitter and Facebook feeds – and then tuning out.

While wearing my marketing executive hat, in the social media world I talk about things like “engagement” and “building communities.” This basically means that we, as marketers, are searching for loyal consumers in an environment where price is king. No longer can a brand rely on their product and retail channels for sales. Added to the mix are things like core mission statements and corporate philosophies that redefine a company as a person whom you’d welcome into your home. Where you don’t matter how much they cost because they are a welcomed guest based on more meaningful attributes than just something that ends in 98 cents. And considering many of these brands have people behind the keyboards, the connection is still wholly human, worthy of your attention, and of your loyalty.

I, for one, have never worked for a company whereby I didn’t fully believe in the product, the people, and the cause. I was proud to represent those companies in building communities that shared in my passion for what the employees were hoping to achieve – permanency in the minds of their consumer and a shared love for what they were doing. Marketing has adapted and become a truly dynamic entity in an ever-changing world; one that is characterized by fleeting moments that have been whittled down to 6 seconds on Vine, yet still extols the true value in building longterm relationships.

While wearing my writing hat, I long for moments that are much more enduring. I want someone to dive into my writings and connect for more than a few seconds. Whether reading or just living, I long for offline moments that are real, grounded, and invested. Enduring moments that are discussed eye-to-eye, with hands being shaken, life stories being swapped, and thoughts being traded and truly appreciated as a different perspective versus an annoyance. 6 seconds should be counted only if you are refilling your coffee cup with the intent of speaking with someone further or reading for another hour.

Paradoxically, as a writer, I’m still looking for engagement and to build a community. However, I seek these attributes on a deeper level that is not nearly as transitory. Loyalty needs to be earned and above all else, be personal. Through my words, I’m inviting you into my mind. To share in my beliefs, fantastical thoughts, mundane musings, high points fueled by joy, and low points punctuated with depression. To think of me not as a brand, but as a person worthy of at least a few minutes of your time.

Relationships exist on many levels and in many forms: mother/daughter, sister/brother, consumer/manufacturer, consumer/service provider, and more. Some are fleeting and some everlasting. Yet even the everlasting ones can end up being over in a fleeting moment. This saddens me as both a marketer and as a writer – and as a person. A company can do everything right, and one mishap can destroy them. A person can do everything right, and one sentence can level a wonderful friendship in a tearful blink.

In our society, we have become fleeting and fickle. We obsess over the misspoken word, the out-of-context sentence, the off-the-cuff remark, and the unpopular opinion. We obsess for exactly 6 seconds and then move on – leaving the company and person to pick up the pieces, scratch their head, and sometimes, just have a good ol’ cry. Granted, some things are unforgivable, and a we need to hold people accountable for egregious acts, but our fleeting mentality has taken us so far as to make mountains out of molehills, leaving confusion in its wake.

I’d love to see our society become less momentary and, instead, build more enduring moments. To engage and build communities – and mean it – even when times get tough. For example, to choose a 25-year friendship over a 9-word sentence. Or to weight a stellar career over the brief emergence of a very human flaw. To replace instantaneous anger towards a person, no matter how they have come into your life, with patience and forgiveness.

I challenge each and every one of you this week to invest. To turn a 6 second encounter into 6 minutes. And then to turn that 6 minutes into 60. Long enough…

  • To make an impact.
  • To explore a topic fully.
  • To learn about a life.
  • To turn a fleeting judgement into understanding.
  • To support a cause or a brand.
  • To read a good book.
  • And to not…be fleeting at all.

Peace.

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Rhyme Time Be Mine

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I love poetry, rhymes and any arrangement of words that makes them uplifting and singsongy, or forces my brain to find meaning in each and every verse. I’ve been making cards for my parents and loved ones for what seems like forever. I even applied for my dream job once as a card writer for Hallmark. Too bad they are located 1,500 miles away from me. Stupid logistics.

Anyway, because poems are such a huge part of my life, I wrote twenty-one of them for Theo’s Mythic. Ten as openers for the games Theo confronts, and eleven interspersed throughout the book to engage the reader on a deeper level. Because let’s face it, you can have a lot more fun and infuse oodles more intrigue into a poem than you can into a block of copy. Poems are like the word ninjas of the literary world, fraught with mystery, poise, precision, and a healthy dose of crazy. And I love me some crazy.

A poem that popped into my head after I decided to write a novel for kids is what jumpstarted the premise for Theo’s Mythic. I was fascinated with making the word “only” a surname (I also adore making up names, which will be covered in another blog post – with a cool title name) and hence the Onlys were born. I welcomed the Onlys into this world and introduced them to Theo’s Mythic readers with this poem:

Way up on that lonesome hill

Amongst the craggy trees

There sat a truly precious house

Frail and bent upon a breeze.

 

But in that house a wondrous light

A concert of formidable threads

All softened ethereal collected strands

That held it firm instead.

 

And in that house a fantastic world

Known alone to those who dream it

The few, the far, the in between

Are the Onlys who get to see it.

 

Only the ones that believe in their head

That all things are possible still

Only the ones with imaginary friends

Earn their passage to that hill.

 

The Onlys are perfect

The Onlys are smart

Only the Onlys

Follow their heart.

So fun! And the poem begs the questions, “Who are the Onlys?” “Why are they so smart?” “Where is that awesome house?” and finally, “What the heck does craggy mean?” Is craggy even a word?

Shel Silverstein is a poetic genius and Dr. Seuss certainly knew what he was doing and was the master of whimsical rhyme. Dr. Seuss is one of my all time favorite literary ninjas because he would skewer every word that didn’t have a rhyming partner by making one up – bam! Boy oh boy could he make up the most farcical words, too. Case in point, “shorth” – which, according to Dr. Seuss, “Shorth is better than length.” Short for shortened length – so shorth plays the part beautifully. Curtain close.

Here is another poem from Theo’s Mythic – one of my favorites:

An Only’s clarity frees his mind

Sinking imprints beneath the rind

Removing thoughts of no use or weight

Impressing knowledge to complete a fate

Like a lightning scorch mark on the ground

Like water finding its way around

Not knowledge deferred or misaligned

But truth be told and ideas be mine.

For example, “Like water finding its way around,” means that nothing was getting in the way of Theo absorbing the information he was destined to know. Knowledge would be his as soon as he cleared his mind of all the extra baggage he didn’t need.

Poems are like crafting a well-built house out of carefully selected sticks. By piecing each one together flawlessly, you have constructed not only a place to live, but also a work of art. Verses on canvas that take hold of the beholder and draw them into a deeper and more magical level. The art of the rhyme is like no other because, whether you intend it or not, your brain goes into instinctual meter mode and the pulse of the words click through to a conclusion automatically. A lyrical ride for your senses.

So while Hallmark doesn’t allow telecommuting, I’ve chosen the path of novels to give my poems a home…way up on that lonesome hill, amongst the craggy trees.

Peace.

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Sunshine and Rainbows

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? I’m a happy gal who definitely falls into the realm of optimism. In fact, I’m often referred to as “sunshine and rainbows” by those who know me quite well. A moniker I’ve grown to love as I make my way optimistically through an increasingly pessimistic world.

If you are an optimist, then you realize that it is getting a wee bit harder to keep that proverbial glass of water half full. With the onslaught of bad news screaming at you from every news media outlet, you are forever refilling your glass to keep it level, checking for cracks, and keeping it stable so as not to tip over the brink.

“Three boys kill jogger because they are bored,” posts Media Outlet X. “Two boys on bus bully a child to the point of breaking his arm,” reports Media Outlet Y. Both of which are jarring bits of news that gave me pause. Actually, they stopped me dead in my tracks. Where are the sunshine and rainbows in these cases? There aren’t any. You won’t find them there either, because you are looking in the wrong place for something to make sense. Because none of that does. And because if you try to make sense out of it, you are left with a completely empty glass.

Everything is balanced: beach vs. ocean, heights vs. depths, body vs. soul, and good vs. bad news. As I see it, the balance isn’t out of whack, the information is. For every bad thing that happens in my glass in the space of air hovering above the water, a good thing is happening below in a fluid and unmistakably graceful motion. It has been this way throughout history. This, my dear friends, is nothing new.

However, nowadays our information is funneled to us by outlets that gain the most profit out of reporting the worst news. The numbers don’t lie…the more interaction with a story, the higher the numbers. The higher the numbers, the more advertising can be sold. The more advertising and marketing that can be sold, the more profitable the business of reporting news is. On and on it goes – fueled by a bottom line. The incongruous part though, is life is not a bottom line. Oh yes, it has an end, but not a monetary foundation that makes it either worthy of a story or not. It is a story unto itself.

To stay optimistic you have to work harder. You have to search in places that are both on and off the beaten path. Sure you can find the feel-good article from time-to-time online, on your mobile device, or on your TV, but it is usually a buried treasure waiting to be unearthed by those who are actively seeking grace. Or it is found by slowing down your busy life to thank the trees for making oxygen, the moon for providing glorious waves, and a child for taking their first steps.

For every bit of bad news, I stay optimistic by finding the balance and then tipping the scales with the good. For every death, thousands more are saved by a counselor, policeman, good samaritan, soup kitchen worker, and caring teacher. Are they newsworthy? To find out, let’s consider this hypothetical. Choose the headline below you would most likely click on:

“Policeman kills two car thieves by ramming car in high speed chase.”

– OR –

“Policeman visits local school to teach kids about the dangers of drunk driving.”

Face it, you would click on the first one. And yet, while two people – sad in its own right – lost their lives in the first scenario, how many lives were saved by the school visit? Did all twenty of the children in that classroom, or even two of them, take his speech to heart and subsequently make choices that kept them alive? Being an optimist, I’d like to think so.

Rainbows are brought about by a balance between sunshine and rain. So to be optimistic doesn’t mean that you only see good in the world, it means you seek more of it to keep your glass half full – even if you have to fill it with rain.

Peace.

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The Business of Me

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. That’s what I feel like these days. Now that I’m trying to put my cubicle life behind me, I’ve entered into The Business of Me. Or, in other words, I spend my days anchored to a boat called, Self-Promotion. It’s pulling myself up and getting that damn boat out of the mooring that is proving to be the challenge.

I constantly remind myself to stay humble. I’ll never get to the saintly level of Mother Teresa, but I try really hard to keep myself in check. The do-good voices rattling about in my cranium will attest to that fact, as well as the angel that sits on my shoulder and whacks me in the head from time-to-time with her perfectly polished halo. So, can a person striving to live a humble life self-promote themselves effectively, or even at all?

On the one hand, I worry that I’m making a menace out of myself on Facebook and Twitter, and in every conversation I have with family, friends and acquaintances that comes around to talking about my book. On the other hand, I have to be “out there.” Living, breathing and talking my way into people’s hearts and minds. Making myself stick, without being unwontedly stuck.

Some moments make the self-promoting all worthwhile; like when a mom tells me her son absolutely loved Theo’s Mythic and can’t wait for the next book in the series. And then some moments, like when I email someone repeatedly to see if their child liked the book and I hear crickets, I feel like a self-promotional nuisance. A literary leech. Much like an unsolicited vacuum salesman standing at your door begging for a chance to come in – I’m worried both I and the vacuum are going to suck.

“You need tougher skin,” is what I tell myself. So somedays I skip the moisturizer in pursuit of calluses that will protect me from – what? The truth? Actually, no. I need to protect myself from people’s opinions and accept the fact that while some folks might adore the book, some just won’t get it. Factors could include the child’s age, genre likes, love/hate relationship with reading, or any number of things that I have absolutely no control over.

Now back to The Business of Me. Step 1: Write a blog post about said subject. Step 2: Use it as a cathartic experience. Step 3: Move the hell on.

In closing I’d like to share my mission statement for my new business. It reads as follows:

Here at The Business of Me we strive to effectively promote and establish a global understanding of the abilities we offer to our clients. We shall constantly worry about being too “in your face,” but will put ourselves in your face, nonetheless, in the sincere hope that you’ll like what you see. We will forever promote the written word as something to be cherished by children, as well as bring smiles to their faces. And due to our membership in the human race, we will write for a kinder, lovelier, more beautiful world. Because we’ve found that The Business of Me just happens to be…also about You.

Peace.