Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Here's a Poem About Wine

It's awesome. Enjoy:

Here's more:


Monday, June 13, 2011

Writing for the "Right" Age

A few days ago Corey wrote about an exercise she was asked to do at the 2009 Rutgers conference. The panel leader asked the attendees to write their names and what age they felt inside. The point was that whatever age you feel inside should be the age you write for. It's cute and a little clever and maybe even somewhat useful, but I think mostly it's nonsense.

As writers, we traffic in the truth and this exercise strikes me as being largely untruthful.

Because the truth is, none of us feel the same age inside all the time. Or even most of the time. In two weeks, when I get together with some of my college buddies, I will feel (and probably behave) like a twenty-one year old, complete with lewd remarks I'd never make in the presence of my wife and more adult beverage consumption than I'll engage in the rest of the year.

Yesterday, when I tried to run three miles and gave up because my legs got sore around the 1.5 mile mark, I felt more like a forty-five-year old.

When I got on a bike last week for the first time since probably middle school I felt a lot like I felt when I was first learning to ride--nervous, cautious, embarrassed, and awkward. (And my butt hurt as if it had the padding of a person much younger as well)

When I learned my mom got cancer and then when she had open heart surgery I wrestled with the fears of a six-year-old.

On snow days I feel eleven.

And when I walk into a high school gym, memories of my own basketball playing days wash over me and I feel, if only for a fleeting moment, like I am seventeen again.

I think the better advice is this: for whatever age you are writing, you ought to be able to take yourself back in time and remember what it was like to be six, or eleven, or seventeen, or forty-five. And if you need to play a certain song, or recall a certain memory, or visit a certain place in order to do that, then go right ahead. It shouldn't be too hard. In fact, it's probably the most natural thing in the world.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Baker's Assistant, A Short Story for Kids

The line outside the bakery was twenty people long and the bakery hadn't even opened. Inside, Chef Sprocket, the baker, opened a cupboard to take down his ingredients. He snatched the bag of sugar. He pulled down the cinnamon. He grabbed the chocolate chips. But when Chef Sprocket went to hoist the huge sack of flour from the shelf, there was was no sack of flour to hoist.

"VHAIR IS ME FLOUR?" he hollered.

Sven, the chef's assistant, ran into the kitchen. "What is the problem, Master Sprocket?"


Sven glanced out the window at the growing throng. How would they ever serve all those people if they didn't have flour? "I will go get some," he told the baker, and he rushed out the back door. He jumped on his bike and rode to the supermarket. But when he got inside he was dismayed to see that they too were out of flour. "How can this be?" Sven asked, but there was no time to waste complaining to the manager. He got back on his bike.

Sven could think of only one other place where he could get flour--McCready's Bakery, Chef Sprocket's only competition in the pastry field. Sven swallowed. McCready was a hard man who made his desire to crush Chef Sprocket no secret. Still, what choice did Sven have?

McCready's was already open and busy by the time he got there. The smell of donuts, biscuits, and cakes filled his nose. In his haste, Sven had forgotten to eat breakfast. He was very hungry. And if he bought some pastries, perhaps McCready would be more willing to help.

"I'll have a raspberry filled donut and a buttermilk biscuit," he told the clerk. He ate the donut while he waited for Chef McCready. The biscuit he put in his pocket for later.

"What do you want?" McCready snapped when he saw Sven. The pastry chef was a tall, thin man with an oily mustache. He wore a pillowy white hat on his head.

Sven said, "Um...uh...see..." And then, in an unbroken string of words, "We've-run-out-of-flour-at-Sprocket's-and-the-supermarket-has-run-out-and-so-I'd-like-to-buy-some-off-you."

McCready smiled. "Why should I sell you my flour? I need it for my own pastries."

"But surely you have some to spare."

McCready's smile grew brighter. "Surely," he said. Then, "The answer is no. Now get out of my bakery."

Sven thought he might cry. He imagined what Chef Sprocket would say when he returned with no flour. He'd probably get fired.

Because tears had puddled in his eyes, he almost missed the sign by the driveway. "The Gilberts" was written in script on a wooden arrow that pointed toward a small house. The name sounded familiar...

The Gilberts! Of course! As in Helen Gilbert. Sven had seen her picture in the newspaper just last week. She'd won the annual pie baking contest at the county fair. He remembered because Chef Sprocket had seen him reading the article and shouted, "PUT ZAT DOWN! ZROW IT AVAY! IZ MY RECIPE. ZAT VOMAN STOLE IT!"

Any lady who had won the fair's pie baking contest would have to have flour in her kitchen. Sven leaned his bike against a telephone poll and approached the house. He pressed the doorbell. No one came. He rang again, but still, no one answered.

He was about to leave when he had an idea--a bad idea. He could break in. It wouldn't really be stealing. He'd take the flour and then come back in a few days and explain the whole thing. He'd give her twice what he took.

Sven tried the doorknob. Locked. But at the bottom of the door there was a square, leather flap. A doggie door. Sven was a tiny man. He got on his knees and stuck his head through. The coast was clear. He crawled inside. The house was quiet. Maybe Mrs. Gilbert had taken her dog to the vet. If that was the case, he'd better hurry.

Sven threw open the cupboard doors and immediately spotted a bag of flour. But as he reached for it, his hand froze in mid-air at the sound behind him.


Sven turned slowly. A vicious looking Rottweiler was glaring at him.

"Good doggie," Sven said. "Good doggie."

GRRRRRRRRRR. Drool dripped from the dog's muzzle.

Sven looked for a place to run or hide or something to hit the dog over the head with. He found nothing. The dog attacked. Sven through up his arm to protect himself, but the dog bit him in the pocket.

He had forgotten about the biscuit. Quickly, Sven pulled the biscuit out and threw it down a hallway. The dog scampered off. When it did, Sven bolted for the door.

It was hopeless. He'd been gone at least an hour. Dejected, he rode back to Sprocket's. Sven was so upset when he got there that he didn't notice the line had disappeared. He walked into a bakery that was buzzing with happy people eating pastries.

"VHAIR YOU ARE! bellowed Chef Sprocket.

"What has happened?" asked a very confused Sven.

"I forget. I order more flour yesterday. The truck vhas late." The Chef shook his head. So did Sven. "Here,"Chef Sprocket said, "Have a biscuit."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jerry and His Smelly Donkey, a Short Story for Kids

Jerry owned a donkey, and every couple of weeks, after he'd grown bored of a place, he would strap his bundle of stuff to the back of his donkey and head out for the open road.

"Move faster, donkey!" Jerry would yell.

"You're so lazy!" Jerry would shout.

"And you smell like rotten pickles!"

Jerry was tired of his donkey. He thought he might finally be ready to settle down, get a job, and buy a house. And if you own a house, you don't really need a donkey.

Forest Springs seemed like a nice place to live. The trees had leaves. People obeyed traffic laws. Children rode bikes. One child zipped past Jerry and his donkey. "Peeuuwww! That is one stinky mule!" he said. So maybe the schools weren't the greatest.

There was a man selling peanuts at the side of the road. "Would you like to buy my donkey?" Jerry asked him when the man had finished shouting about how his peanuts were "fresh-roasted."

The peanut vendor looked at the donkey. He wrinkled his nose. "I don't want your donkey, man. That thing smells like sweaty socks."

Jerry tried to sell his donkey to six other people, but none of them wanted it either. He came up with a new plan. Instead of selling the donkey, he would just give it away. Who wouldn't want a free donkey? He chuckled at his own cleverness. "Pretty soon," Jerry said, "I'll be rid of you, my slow, malodorous friend."

It wasn't long before he came upon a beggar huddled under a blanket in a dirty alley. "Can you spare some change, brother?" the beggar said.

"No, I cannot," Jerry answered. "I don't have two pennies to rub together, but I can give you this donkey."

The beggar scowled. "That old thing? It smells like my armpits. It's bad enough I got to live with my stinky armpits, I don't need no smelly donkey to add to it."

Jerry tried to give his donkey away to a little girl, a lonely widow, and the zoo, but none of them wanted the animal. "You see how worthless you are, donkey? Not even a lonely old woman wants you. I ought to leave you right here at the side of the road."

That was it! He didn't need to sell the donkey or give it away, he could just abandon it! Jerry climbed off the smelly donkey and grabbed his bundle of belongings. "See you later, donkey," he said, and then added, "Actually, that's not true. I plan on never seeing, or smelling, you again." As Jerry strolled off toward the center of town, the donkey stood there stupidly, not knowing what to do.

Jerry soon found what he was looking for, a person who needed a roommate. He moved in to a tiny apartment on Main Street. But Jerry was so used to the open air that he felt cramped in the small space. The apartment was tiny and his roommate was a slob.

"Pick up your stuff, you slob!" Jerry scolded the man. "What do you need so much stuff for anyway?" They had a fight and Jerry's new roommate threw him out.

"And take your stupid bundle with you!" he said.

Jerry tried other places, but no one wanted him. Some people said he smelled a little like a donkey. He decided to go back to his old life. He slung his bundle of stuff over his shoulder and started walking. It was a long way to the next town.

The night was growing dark and his legs were sore, so he stopped to sit at the side of the dusty road. And as he did he smelled something on the wind. It smelled a little like rotten pickles. The scent reminded him of sweaty socks. It was redolent of the armpits of a homeless beggar. It smelled like Jerry's donkey, and it smelled wonderful.