Tuesday, November 26, 2013


We adopted three cats from a local shelter, and the quest for their names was in full swing. The shelter gave them perfectly good names, but we had to re-name them. It was as if they needed to be “re-born” at their new home, and heaven help them forget who they were before, and, please, may they remember who they are now.

You can tell from my tone that I would have left their shelter-names in place, though two were kittens who will likely accept their new identities. The older cat had a name before she was found, but no one knows what it was. So everyone gets a new start at the Breens.

The discussion for who should be called what was rather revealing of the humans who dwell here. Considering that the older female wound up as Clara Schumann and one of the youngsters is now Sokolov, named after the great pianist Grigory Sokolov, you get a pretty good idea about this musical home. The felines, by the way, show little attraction to the piano when it is played, which it is, for hours, every day. But one can always hope.

The third cat got away from the classical scene with the name Monk. Our favorite television show’s detective is nothing like his name’s sake. Kitten Monk is the most social and gregarious of the bunch.

I read that William E. Boeing, who founded United Airlines, named his pet Pekingese General Motors. I don’t do revenge-naming, but I applaud a good one. Our little Monk almost seems like a sarcastic naming, but it was shortened from his shelter name, Monkey, which was a far better fit for this guy.
I’m only glad my brood does not get to name my fictional characters. I follow the Old Testament and name for qualities or themes. The Hebrew Bible has the resonance of a fable because every single name is symbolically meaningful in the original. It’s lost in translation, where, for example, the name “Ruth” no longer sounds like “companion/friend,” an allusion to her being the first convert who expressed loyalty to her adoptive family. How many would name their girls Leah if they heard the meaning, “weary/tired?” The biblical matriarch was just that. With eleven kids and being almost blind, who can blame her?

I focus, and find my way to characters’ names. Names can be trendy, and accrue connotations over the years. I think and feel my way to a name, and know when I've got it. When the name is right, the character begins to speak.

Monk, Sokolov and Clara Schumann are too busy chasing a string to be talking much.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Who Is Smart?

Where did I leave my favorite pen?

For as long as I can remember I had a tendency to put things someplace, then forget where. Having made this statement, you’d be smart to wonder if I can be trusted to remember whether I have always been this way, or it is a sign of my all-around feeble mind.

I also remember being thought of as smart. But why? Says who? My report card?

I read that squirrels can remember up to ten thousand hiding places where they squirreled away their nuts. Squirrels are more then smart. By this measure they are brilliant.
I pity the researchers who sat and counted ten thousand different nut-hiding places. I wonder how smart they had to be to know the places were all distinct. They had to be smart at counting, that’s for sure.

I’d settle for finding my pen.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

And the Medal Goes to…

Medals are funny things.

I know, I know. You’re thinking medals can be many things: heavy, beautiful, or pointless. But funny?

Today they struck me as funny. I read that between 1928 and 1948 twelve Olympic medals were awarded for… Town Planning. I need to investigate that one. Did they run a race?

Maybe I’m a bit giddy because my novel for middle grades recently won a medal. No, not the Nobel or the Newbery. Here it is:
A Moonbeam Bronze medal is lovely. You can see my book, THE VOICE OF THUNDER, beaming back at it, can’t you?

Actually, the book doesn't care, and I can’t see its author walking around wearing a medal. It didn't make a good book better, nor is it likely to improve sales. But the day I got the notice was a nice day.

Bet those town planners liked getting theirs, too. I hope they thought it was a wee bit funny, too. If we can’t laugh at the way we make and give value, we’ll take ourselves entirely too seriously.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Giving Value

I must have inherited my parents’ dislike of “so what” purposeless or banal writing. A story, a blog post, heavens- even a comment on another’s blog post from me- must have some point. That hard-to-define thing called value.

It was easier for King Edward the VII, who was reputed to weigh his house guests after house parties at his Sandrigham estate. His majesty wanted to make sure they had eaten well. It also helped that he was a royal highness, because none of my house-guests would be so obliging.

But how to evaluate value? How do you know if what you put out there, whether a poem or a pie, has a point and a purpose? Is it entirely subjective? Completely personal?

I don’t know how to answer this in a way that won’t embarrass me tomorrow. I only know that I try to do it. And that value is, to me, some gained wisdom.

Edward the VII had one answer that could be literally weighed and measured. I’m always looking for mine.