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

Image

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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Still at Home

I live in the town I grew up in. There, I said it. Get a glass of water if you need one, I know the news can be jarring to many.

To the many, I know such a statement makes me sound simple, unadventurous, and mundane. Growing up you often hear the words, “I can’t wait to get out of this place.” Why? There are many reasons both valid and just plain escapist. For the former, it might be an abusive home or a lack of jobs. Valid. For the latter, the allure of something more – whatever that may be – lies somewhere else. Anywhere else but where you are. Which is ok, but take a hard look at your reasons for leaving before you think the grass is greener in Greenville, USA. Because maybe you just need a new lawnmower.

Like anything in life, sometimes it isn’t the physicality that limits you, it is what you do with the resources you have and how you look at them. To me, this town is my home base. My family is the foundation that represents a four mile radius around my house, my personality has been imprinted on the local schools and playgrounds, and my memories were born here and float in the ether until I pull them back down to reminisce. All readily available at a moment’s notice.

Instead of letting my home limit me, I look to it as my springboard for the vast pool of life. The comfort of home allowed me to jump out of my comfort zone and explore the world. I’ve been blessed to have travelled far and wide, experiencing so many things that different climates and cultures have to offer. But I’ve always come home. And when asked…I am proud, not ashamed, to say that I live in the town I grew up in; for I have found no other place in the world that is fully me.

I firmly believe everyone should let themselves go. If you come back to your home town, it was meant to be. If not and you have found what you are looking for elsewhere, then that was meant to be. I just don’t want anyone to assume that “getting out of this place” is an easy way out. To find your own truths, don’t assume they lie elsewhere, instead, start by digging in your own backyard first. When you are done, you may have made a hole big enough for a pool.

So if you are one of those who live in the town you grew up in and someone asks you, “Don’t you feel limited having been chained to this place your whole life?” Simply reply, “While you see them as chains, I see them as roots.”

Peace.

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Reading to a Motley Crew

Ok, so maybe my kids aren’t rock stars (yet), nor are they bad to the bone, but sometimes trying to read to three different children, at three different levels – and different sexes to boot (picture princesses vs. pirates) – is like reading to a Motley Crew.

With my first son, reading before bedtime when he was little was a treasured block of time I fiercely protected, and I was able to do it with relative ease. Many folks tend to be structured with their first child and I was no exception: dinner, play, bath, books, and then bed. It was as simple as that. I would sit with my legs crisscrossed applesauce on the floor and have him snuggle into my lap. Book in hand, we read and explored every word and picture as one fabulously literate unit.

When my second son came along, I struggled with many of the “second child” questions that accompanied an emotional pregnancy. “How can I love more than one child?” “How will I have time for both?” My eldest wouldn’t hear of not sitting in my lap as we had always done. That was his spot. My lap = his chair. Discussion over. Me holding his new baby brother and reading a book as a now re-configured unit was so not happening.

I wanted to read together as a family, but then realized that I had to divide and conquer for our collective sanity. My eldest wasn’t hearing or learning anything with a screaming baby within earshot; not to mention I felt rushed and stressed. It was ridiculous. So I decided to break routine and find time for both of them separately. It was a light bulb moment in the 100 watt range. And we would explore the world of words until such time as we could come back together without issue.

It was bliss. Each got their own quality reading and snuggle time with mommy and/or daddy. Eventually, we got back to reading together as a group as they outgrew my lap [insert sad mommy face here] and began to take on some of the reading themselves [insert proud mommy face here.]

Then I had to throw a wrench in the reading gears by adding a baby princess in with the pirates who had already put in their time swabbing the deck; thereby setting us in the direction of walking the plank. Like a book, though, out story continues to evolve, add more characters, and develop into different chapters.

The present course takes one of two paths depending on the wind and the night. On some evenings I read to the princess in her room, alone and cuddling one-on-one while the boys pick out their selections in their room. On other nights, we all gather on the floor and take turns reading a book to one another. It is hysterical to hear my daughter “read” when it is her turn – because she can’t yet. It is complete gibberish, but utterly precious. Even the boys laugh at her insistence that what she is “reading” is correct.

So reading to my Motley Crew has been an evolution of good, bad and silly. Some days the one-on-one time works and sometimes it’s a free-for-all. I also try to tailor the book selection to the reading method. So if it is a free-for-all night, then we all dance around like crazy lunatics while I read, “Eight Silly Monkeys.” And sometimes we make up our own stories or act out stories we know by heart.

My family has taken on many forms over the years and so has our reading. The whole beauty of our story is that we can rewrite it to suit our needs. Sometimes our story is fiction, sometimes non-fiction, oftentimes autobiographical, but it is always an appreciation for the written word and the illustrations that bring each and every adventure to life.

While my crew may be motley, I am the captain of this pirate ship, plus one princess, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Argh!

Peace.

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