The One With the Fairy Tales

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Settling on something is tough. I’m not talking about things like choosing a mate, where to go college or between Pepsi and Coke. Nothing life changing.  I’m talking about small things – like choosing the name of your blog and not having a mild stroke over it. I’ve changed it six times today and I can’t imagine ever having to decide on the title of a book. (All but one of my children’s stories are untitled.)

So far, I like The One With the Fairy Tales. So far. From the beginning of my blogging adventure, I’d decided that anything I wrote would have to begin with “The One With.” See, my first TV love was Friends and most, if not all of its episode titles begin with those three words. I watch the show daily, and ALWAYS travel with DVD copies too. I feel this connection to it every time I go to write a post.

And why Fairy Tales? To be honest, I wanted to just say Tales but can you imagine telling someone your blog is The One With All the Tales – and getting weird looks because people will think you blog about TAILS. I would have to say, “The One With All the Tales as in T-A-L-E-S, like fairy tales, get it?” and that would get exhausting. Besides, who doesn’t love fairy tales? There are various, long-winded definitions of what a fairy tale is  but most agree on the fact that these tales are magical and imaginative. And I think that’s a great description for the stories on paper, onscreen and on the stage.

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No Longer Waiting For Tomorrow

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Sunday, December 1st is nearly over. And today was the day that I promised myself that I would blog, blog DAILY. You see, yesterday, November 30, for most people was the day to recover from Thanksgiving dinner and brutal Black Friday shopping but for me, yesterday was the reminder that NaNoWriMo was over and I had missed the 50,000 word goal by 49,750  words. My Twitter timeline was filled with congratulatory tweets of those who had finished and some that had surpassed the goal.(90,000+ words?! You deserve a medal!) Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy for my fellow writers. How did November go by so fast?! My first day, I sat down and wrote 250 words, rewarded myself with an episode of The Big Bang Theory and then fell asleep. I’d make up the rest tomorrow. But tomorrow came and went. And this went on and on so much so that I had started to sound like I was auditioning for Annie. I really could use a Daddy Warbucks but I digress. It was the middle of the month and making up 25,000 words in one day was overwhelming. I’d catch up on Scandal instead and write something, anything…just later. (Sidebar – that show is fabulous)  I was too tired, too busy, unmotivated annnnnnd you get it, nothing ever materialized. So on November 30, I said December will be my month and I started to write. But how would I keep the momentum going for 31 whole days?!, I wondered (I should’ve started this writing-everyday thing in February.) Well, I found my answer in a tweet! It’s a godsend but that reveal will have to wait until, lest I say it again… tomorrow. Alas, here I am, not writing a novel but writing anyway. And in under the deadline! Barely.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

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Today is Thursday, or rather Friday as it will be by the time I’ve posted this, meaning I spent the afternoon watching my favorite 18-month-old, Valentina*. She’s recently discovered storytelling, well, her version of it. Today’s story went something like this, “Park. Jamie. Slide. Fall. Ball. Five!” In case you can’t crack the code, I told the story back to her, “We went to the park and saw your friend Jamie. You both went down the slide, and Jamie fell and hit her head when she got to the bottom. Her dad brought out a super cool yellow ball and let you play with it. Before we left the park, he gave you a high-five!” Her response, “Yes! More!” as in, “Tell me the story over and over for the next half hour!” Which I did and then she told it back to me, adding details, “Park. Jamie. Slide. Fall. Head. Cool ball, yellow. Five!”

It got me thinking about my earliest memories with books. No, I can’t remember my seven-word stories before the age of two but I do remember my stacks of books. I was a very shy little girl but if you agreed to read me a story, or 12, you had to pry me from your hip by the time you were ready to leave. As soon as I learned how to read, I kept a stash under my pillow for prohibited late-night reading once my parents sent me to bed. My plan wasn’t all that fool-proof; at that time, I shared a bedroom with them. My bed was maybe 6 feet away? How do you punish a child for reading? You threaten them with blindness! My mother’s version of “You’ll shoot your eye out!” was “You’re going to go blind reading in the dark!” I really could’ve used a Kindle way back when.

I have a singular, distinct memory, around the age of seven, during which my mom asked me about my day at school. A normal question and I gave a pretty normal answer until I got around to the part about the giant ants in the bathroom that turned into fire-breating dragons after turning on the water in the sink. I’m fairly certain she was only half-listening to my tall tale because she waited a good five minutes before stopping me to ask if I was making up stories… again.

I kept the morphing insects to myself after a while and started to put my imagination on paper in second grade. Mortified by Disney’s Bambi, I revamped the story. If I wrote the story myself, I could keep the mother alive and everyone could live happily ever after. Yay! I wrote another story about Maria, the butterfly. She lived alone in the forest, probably pretty scary for a single butterfly, yes? No! Maria took karate lessons and learned how to protect herself. My story was complete with an illustration of a very pink butterfly screaming “Hi-yah!” I received an award (index card with stickers) that year from the Assistant Principal for my many stories. I told everyone that I was going to be a writer when I grew up (and no one would be able to tell me that I couldn’t read in the dark!) I continued to read and write, feverishly. I spent my weekends in the library or scouring the Scholastic Book pamphlets, begging my parents to buy me all of the books. In the seventh grade, I discovered Agatha Christie with And Then There Were None and continued to have WRITER as the ultimate goal but doubt started to find it’s way into my mind along with encouragement from teachers and advisors in high school that I should find something else… a real job. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate the advice to find a plan B. I do but writing was put on the back burner for about 5 years.

In my sophomore year of college, all of that changed. I nannied part-time; my charge was a little boy named Paul and he too had seven word stories to tell. As he got older, we had this running joke about the weird noises in the house – there was a dinosaur that lived on the roof. He played guitar and liked watching the trains go by. I began to jot down  these musings, adding to them while he napped or on the bus ride home. As if I needed further inspiration, I then read Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. (If you haven’t read it, please stop whatever you’re doing and read it now. I don’t care how old you are. If you have/know a child and/or were once a child, you need to read it) I decided. I want to do this. I want to share my words.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the adorable.

Beginnings

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Hiya!

This blog is a tremendous step forward for me. Six years in the making, (if jotted notes in a million lost notebooks count) I toyed with the idea of creating a blog – What would I write about? And could I write about said topic…forever? It never dawned on me, until recently, that I didn’t have to write about one thing, say, bananas, every day. I could blog about fruit salad or vegetables or billboards. The possibilities were endless! Another thing, the thought of other people reading what I wrote? While it’s something I’ve dreamed about from a very young age , the very thought of it terrified me. People are mean and they’d make horrible comments if I forgot a comma, stated an unpopular opinion etc. Have you ever read the comments on any published article? But that was all blah, blah fear.

A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to Barnes & Noble aka Where-My-Savings-Account-Goes-To-Die and read the cutest children’s story, The Day the Crayons Quit. I found the author’s Twitter, perused his timeline and found a lovely review about the book. That same day, I created my Twitter account, @theonewithElyse and followed several book bloggers. My timeline was filled with tons of pictures of books, summer reading challenges, hypothetical dinners with favorite authors, and the Kindle vs. paperback debate. I purchased a few (okay, a lot) of the tweeted titles. I enjoyed reading the reviews and new reads but still had that nagging feeling of wanting an outlet with more than 140 characters at my disposal.

Last week, I found White Oleander by Janet Fitch in a friend’s home. I read nothing else for a week. (Strange for me, as I usually go back and forth between 3 and 4 titles) There’s this immense feeling of satisfaction when I finish a book, a great book, along with that ‘What am I supposed to now?!’ feeling with just a smidgeon of jealousy as to why I could not turn out a piece of beauty comparable to this.

White Oleander reminded me why I read, what makes it so special that I can shut off the TV, turn off my almost-always playing music and enter the world of the character on the page. Why do I read? I do love a well-crafted story that allows me to escape but I love identifying with a character and their relationships. No, my mother isn’t in prison, nor has she killed anyone (at least, not to my knowledge) Exploring Astrid’s growth and relationship with her mother, her fears, desire for love, resonated with me.

After reading White Oleander, I wanted to read more about children in foster care and bought Bastard Out of Carolina. Unfortunately, I have to wait for that in the mail but until then, I’ve started My Prison Without Bars, a title I found via the lovely community of writers I follow on Twitter. It’s definitely not an easy read and yet, feels appropriate among White Oleander and Bastard Out of Carolina. What began as an interest in exploring foster care has now led me to look at the complex mother/daughter relationships in these books. However daunting the task, I’d like to review the three together. Impossible? We shall see.