Unicorns, Glitter, and Green Neon Marker

By Ellen Leventhal

I’ve had better summers. My house flooded, I broke two teeth, and I gained five pounds. Did I mention my house flooded? I watched parts of my life, including manuscript upon manuscript, float away. In the aftermath, I found soaked stories and putrid smelling poems. Ideas scribbled in journals were illegible, and water oozed out of notebooks and folders. Along with all of this, my creativity seems to have drowned too.  I have to assume that it will resurface at some point, but for now, I’m focusing on the creativity of seven and eight year olds.

Every year, teaching at the Writers in the Schools/ Rice Literacy and Culture Creative Writing Camp is the highlight of my summer. This year it saved my sanity. I usually teach older kids, but this time I was assigned seven and eight year olds. I was a bit concerned about working with such young kiddos, but there are definitely some advantages to working with kids this age. Here are a few.

  1. They laugh at my jokes and don’t roll their eyes.
  2. They are silly. And they don’t care.
  3. They ask questions like, “Why does glitter glitter?”
  4. They write about unicorns and kidnappers all in the same story.
  5. They love everything they write and think that “wings” and “fins” rhyme.
  6. They know that writing is better when it’s done in neon green, and the margins are decorated with pink hearts.
  7. They totally get that if you sing while you write, you can conquer the world.
  8. They know that writing with a friend is the best. Especially when you giggle and illustrate your work.
  9. They fall over laughing when they read their work aloud.
  10. They smile. A lot. And cry. Just sometimes.

These children’s creativity bubbles to the top. It hasn’t been buried under concerns about state mandated tests and grades. They are filled with wonder, and they are carefree. They make me smile. So when I am with them, just for a few hours,  I am not worried about FEMA, insurance, and the fact that I need to adjust to a new normal.  I just take a neon green marker and write a story about unicorns that save the earth. And of course, I decorate the margins with pink hearts.

Would You Date this Protagonist?

dating

By Ellen Leventhal

I love character driven stories. Great characters become your friends. They hit a chord in your heart. You don’t have to like them, but they should evoke some type of emotion. Are they kind? Funny? Quirky? Certain characters stay with us forever. Is it weird that I wanted to name my first born either Scout or Atticus? As a writer, there are hundreds of ways to develop characters, and I’ve used a bunch. They were all good, but now I’d like to share a new one with you. Match.com. Stay with me on this.

I have been happily married for close to 44 years, but for some reason I get match.com emails almost weekly. I’ve now also been introduced to the ranks of eHarmony and my new favorite, OurTime.com (for mature couples). Obviously, the internet knows I’m old. It just doesn’t know I’m married. Or doesn’t care.  My inbox is a virtual cornucopia of “singles in my area.” One day last week, being of curious mind and wanting to put off real work, I decided to look around a little. You know, just for fun. And then it hit me. The Constant Contact gods did not want me to leave my husband and troll the internet for people looking for love in all the wrong places. They sent these lovelorn souls to me for something much more interesting. Character development! You want to know a character? Read the online dating profiles and then write one of your own. I’d like to introduce you to three characters you may meet in some of my stories.

Ms. Magnificent is a 5’10” (6’ in her Jimmy Choos) Texan with a heart bigger than Southfork. She has been hurt, yet she doesn’t let that stop her from trying to find love. She believes that everyone is basically good, and she is kind to everyone. Those Prada sunglasses she sports may keep out UV rays, but they are rose colored and has caused her some disappointment. But don’t worry. She bounces back for more! She wears her heart on her her Stella McCartney dress sleeves, and when she is upset, y’all will know it. She feels sure that her Prince Charming is right around the corner. Could it be you? Ms. M. likes mocha frappacinos (sugarfree, no fat) arugala salad (dressing on the side), and long walks. (But not in the rain because her hair has a tendency towards frizzing). Ms. Magnificent is an animal lover. She rescues puppies and kittens, and her favorite farm animal is a unicorn. She doesn’t eat carbs, but she’s a wonderful baker. That’s not the only reason they call her Cup Cake. Call to find out more.

Mr. Macho is 6’2” and muscular. He has been divorced for five years, and he enjoys life to the utmost. His luxurious hair is almost to his shoulders because he doesn’t care that it’s not 1969 anymore. He’s a people lover and wants to love as many people as possible. He sometimes gets sad when he thinks of his ex-wife because she is really pretty and rich. They only divorced because she took advantage of his good nature and had a crazy idea that their relationship should be monogamous. He’s too much of a giver to only give to one person. He is also too much of a man to be told what to do. He believes women should be treated like ladies all the time. He opens doors and makes decisions for them. He doesn’t want “his girls” to work too hard. If you want to have fun, and you have very low self-esteem, call him. He’ll answer if he feels like it.

Ms. March wants you to know that’s her name, not her title. And it will be Dr. March as soon as she finished her PhD. She is a biology professor at a prestigious university. She’s never been married because her career comes first. Although she spurns the institution of marriage, she’d like someone to spend time with and possibly travel with her to third world countries. She likes politics, but is open minded. As long as you agree with her. Ms. March does not want to be categorized by political party, race, or religion, but she will not date a Republican. If you don’t recycle, don’t call her. She will have to clear her chakras after being with you, and who has time for that? A perfect date would be margaritas on the beach and an anti-war demonstration. Call and find out why they call her Top Shelf.

So there you have it. Put any of these people together and watch what happens. Thanks, match.com! Research comes in all forms.

 

 

Celebrate Local Authors!

By Ellen Leventhal

 

local business Maude Marks Library

1815 Westgreen Blvd. Katy, TX

Dec. 6 1:00- 5:00

Help Celebrate Local Authors and Help Maude Marks Library!

 

It’s crazy out there. Really crazy. It’s loud, crowded, and just a little bit scary. Now understand, this is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Space City Scribes as a whole. After all, we are individuals, but this individual is not fond of crowds and pushing and ripping things out of other people’s hands. Let’s be a little civilized, can’t we? You do see the irony of finishing Thanksgiving and then running out on Black Friday to get more stuff, don’t you? I know some people love it, but the idea of camping out overnight to get a deal on a flat screen TV is not my idea of fun. Nor is fighting crowds and knocking over little old ladies to get that must have item for your fifth cousin once removed. But let’s be realistic. We are in the gift giving season, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I love giving gifts. It may sound hokey, but I really do enjoy giving more than receiving. So I say, let the shopping begin….just not the craziness. How about shopping local?
Nov. 29 was Small Business Saturday. Small businesses were celebrated, and everyone was encouraged to “Shop small.” My husband and I were in a locally owned restaurant where the owner talked with us about the importance of small businesses and the difficulties of trying to stay in business in the shadow of mega everythings. I certainly admit to an occasional foray to Costco, but normally I try to patronize small locally owned businesses. It’s important for our economy, and it’s important for our culture. There is something satisfying about knowing that the mom and pop store will still be around with Mom or Pop personally helping you find what you need.
This coming Saturday, Maude Marks Library in Katy, TX will be highlighting local. But instead of restaurants and boutiques, they will celebrate local authors. Maude Marks Library has been very supportive of local authors, and now it’s time to thank them by donating a percentage of their proceeds back to the library. Sounds like a win-win to me. Twenty eight authors will be presenting, discussing, and selling their books. If you’re in the Houston area, come on out and meet us. We’ll get to know you, shake your hand, and sign some books. And I am pretty sure, there will be no pushing, shoving, or knocking down old ladies.

 

Heard & Overheard During NaNoWriMo

by Mandy Broughton

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

In case you live in a cave or have been kipnapped by the Fae-Mer-folk, it’s NaNoWriMo. What is this bizarre acronym? It’s just a fancy way of saying National Novel Writing Month.

For one crazy-fun-filled month, November, writers from around the galaxy, commit to writing a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. All output, no editing. No deleting. No lamenting, “I shall write a novel one day.” That day is now. And we’re in the midst of it.

I personally believe that NaNoWriMo is better than sliced bread. For a numbers gal, who never got praised for being creative in ANYTHING, I get the chance to cast aside all responsibility and to create. It is a wonderful and exhausting experience.

As with any of casting aside of responsibilities, there have been some interesting conversations overheard in my particular NaNoWriMo quarantined household. I’d like to share just a few.

  1. “Mom lets us watch as much TV as we want but we also have to scrounge for food.”

From December to October, media time is severely limited for my kids but I do reward them with lots of home-cooked meals. But in November, they catch up on all their missed media and out-Netflix the most devoted Netflixers.

I disagree with peanut butter sandwiches being considered as scrounging for food. It’s like a fast, only with peanut for thirty days.

  1. “Would a tree spirit in human form be healed if she were planted in soil and watered?”

Yes, I asked this question. What do you think?

  1. “I can’t find the Apache name for a Dryad—a tree spirit? If I can’t find the name, then what am I supposed to call her?!”

“What about ‘tree spirit?’”

Okay, this happened in writing group. I get so caught up in my research that I forget maybe sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  1. “Outta my way, it’s NaNoBaTi. I’ve got three minutes.”

NaNo word sprints are the greatest thing ever. Tweets from my phone set me to typing as fast as I can. I make Clark Kent look like a slacker. Only problem is that sometimes they don’t call the National Novel Bathroom Time often enough. Especially when I’ve been downing caffeine like a camel on water after a long journey through the dessert.

  1. “I sorry, I can’t come in to volunteer today.”

I really hope the organizations where I volunteer don’t read this blog.

  1. “Taking notes on the bulletin about the sermon today?”

“Uh… no.”

I do not NaNo during church. I promise. Just because I jot down a few ideas doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening to the sermon. I promise!

  1. “You killed off the horse I named?!”

Sorry, kid. Yes, I needed a name of a horse. And, yes, the werewolves got him. I’ll write another horse one day. And let him live. Maybe.

  1. “Maybe if the house were cleaner, the kids would enjoy going to school more.”

The house gets messy. The kids get cranky. And my husband gets desperate. I promise I’ll clean… December 1. But wait, I might be doing National Novel Editing Month then…

  1. “What are you doing for lunch?”

“Mining silver.”

Did you know YouTube has videos of mining silver? And smelting silver from ore? And one lady has an entire blog series on the making of silver bullets? You can’t melt silver over any old campfire.

10. “I just finished the first draft of my new novel.”

I haven’t said this one yet this year. But I will. I love NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t done it, try it. If you love it, please consider donating. It’s a wonderful cause. And we always need a little more creativity—and fun—in this part of the galaxy.

Okay, my phone is calling. The new NaNoWordSprints leader is ready to sprint. I’m off to finish my novel.

Unconfidential Sources

My turn to blog! I considered writing about indie publishing. But Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, and Passive Guy have that more than covered. Maybe a piece on getting some writing done, with kids, during summer break. But there are already at least 108 million mommy blogs (go google ‘mommy blog’ if you don’t believe me). That, and I haven’t solved that puzzle, either. I asked myself, “What is something that nobody but me can write about?”

Ideas. More specifically, how I get ideas for stories.

I read the “Weird News” sections of online news sources. I’ve even gotten ideas from reading the Homeowner’s Association newsletter.

I write down my dreams. Sometimes, I get weird scenes, scenarios, or dialog. But sometimes, I get entire stories.

I listen to podcasts, like Mysterious Universe.

I read websites, like CryptoMundo, Who Forted, Coast to Coast AM (a little heavy on the conspiracy theories, but sometimes they have gems).

I watch shows like Unusual Suspects, Homicide Hunter, and Forensic Files.

I eavesdrop on strangers in public places. Shhhh. It’s a secret.

I take pictures of odd things.

I go unusual places, and love doing “off the beaten track” activities. I would recommend the sewer tour in Paris, if you get the chance.

Put all those things in the blender, then ask “What if…”