Tuesday, February 23, 2016

From the Mouth of Babes, Again

A conversation I overheard at the children’s books’ section of my favorite neighborhood bookstore, yesterday afternoon—


Kid: “This is not a good book.”

Mom: “Why? The writer is very well known.”

Kid: “The story has a happy ending and the good guys win.”

Mom: “That’s a good story, (kid’s name). Don’t you like happy endings?”

Kid: “The bad guys were so much stronger the whole time and they should have won.”

Mom: “In stories good wins over evil.”
Kid: “In some stories I don’t mind. But there was no way in this one.”

In all my years of reading eloquent reviews and how-to books on what kids like and expect, I have never heard it expressed better.


Now that I think of it, my two favorite stories from second grade were The Little Prince and The Little Match girl. Sad endings and no fixes for the imperfections of this world. And yes, I got it, and read and re-read these for years.

Summer Reader
©By Shelagh Duffett
A reminder to self: don’t write happy endings that are just tacked on. Don’t underestimate your readers, no matter what anyone else says about “kids won’t get that.”


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cold Got You Down? Get Some Whiskers!

The Love Holiday just passed, and if you did it right you kissed a lot of people. This could mean you are now laying low and lying down, felled by an old fashioned cold.
It is imperative to have good comforting company to look onto occasionally.

A good pair of slippers. These were a gift from DS, called Freudian Slippers. The label says they were made by The Unemployed Philosophers’ Guild.
And a good book to read~

 With someone to read it to you~

© LOVE makes the world go around ©

Friday, February 12, 2016

Let’s consider these famous quotations about LOVE

St. Valentine’s Day, with the heart-shaped chocolates and musings about love, is shortly upon us.


Years back, DS asked me why almost all the popular songs are about love. I answered that love is, well, popular. The accoutrements and trimming attached to love have always been popular. Speaking about love is a perennially popular topic, and singing about it is “the popularest.”


This got me thinking about famous quotations from venerable sources that, when you stop to think, don’t quite hold water. Don’t get me wrong, they all contain some truth. But in the main they come short.


“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Erich Segal

Really? Me no likey this one.


“Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you.”

 Loretta Young

Very nice Loretta, but it ain’t so, darlin’.


“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

 Mother Teresa

Oh, brother! I mean, oh, mother—sometimes yes and mostly no.


“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”


And I thought Aristotle was the earthbound thinker. Really, Ari.

So while all of these are nice enough, though sorely lacking, I find this last one, not as pithy or as poetic, to be much more satisfying:


Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”
Ann Landers



My sixpence-worth is that Love is a mystery. Just like life, and all of creation.

Keep singing, and send chocolates. That part is all good.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Getting the Voice (age) Right

When writing for younger readers, feedback from beta readers, agents and editors may include comments such as these:

“The voice reads too young for the MC age.”

“The voice sounds too adult.”

“The voice sometimes sounds too young.”

“The voice weaves between the appropriate age and that of an adult.”

“While the voice is spot-on for the age, I didn’t care for it.”

“Whatever else you change, do not revise the voice. It’s terrific.”

“The voice is stilted and unnatural.”

“The voice has a natural flow that kids will relate to.”

One of my novels got all of the above before it was published. Yup, since I have only one published to date, it’s not a mystery which book it is.


What to do? When personal feedback shows no consistency and is even directly contradictory, I think of it as honest, well intentioned, but subjective. There is nothing I have to do, because if I were to take it to heart I would get an incoherent stew as I attempt to revise.


Here is when feedback makes me spring to action:

*When it instantly resonates

**When it repeats from different readers

Getting the voice to hit the right note of authenticity for the age is a challenge those who write for their own age do not have to worry about. Getting feedback from younger readers is also good, but keep in mind— each is still an individual.

 We who write for children must keep the reader’s age in front of us always.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Groundhog Day

If ground-hog day was bright and fair,
The beast came forth, but not to stay;
His shadow turned him to his lair,
Where six weeks more, he dormant lay
Secure in subterranean hold—
So wondrous weatherwise was he—
Against six weeks of ice and cold,
Which, very certain, there would be...

~H.L. Fisher, "Popular Superstitions," Olden Times: or, Pennsylvania Rural Life, Some Fifty Years Ago, and Other Poems, 1888

Well, then— it’s today, and it’s all right if we missed it. GROUNDHOG DAY is for many young’uns an excellent Bill Murry movie, played over and over since its release in 1993. But the odd Farmer’s Almanac-like   custom is much older, and not less bizarre when analyzed. Does the groundhog see its shadow? Six more weeks of winter? Heh?

I think of it this way— the weather is uncontrollable. We want control. Give us some grounding from where we will navigate.

But I like to leave this post with a much more spunky quotation that should take us through the next six/eight/ten/please no more weeks:

It's a holiday entirely based on the power of a psychic rodent. If that isn't the epitome of awesome, I don't know what is.”

~Flying LlamaFish, "7 Reasons Groundhog Day is the Ultimate Holiday," 2010, PunIntended.com