July 30, 2009
What do you do with leftover story ideas? You know, the ones you've either tried in good faith and discarded, or kept around for ages but never had a strong enough urge to pursue?
In my son's school lunchroom, there's a table where kids can put any food that comes in their lunches that they don't want. The idea is that another kid might really want those tater tots, and if it's on the Table of Unwanted Foods, other kids can help themselves. Usually, the table is full of whole oranges. (In their great wisdom, the folks who plan school lunch menus decided that a whole orange is an accessible and desirable fruit. But anyone who has an 8-year-old child knows what happens when you give him a whole orange, and it has nothing to do with eating.) Every now and then, however, tater tots, bags of chips, or even an untouched cookie will appear on the table for the lucky kid who's there first to grab it.
What if we did something like that with our discarded story ideas? Don't throw them out; someone else might be able to use them. I know, writing is a very personal thing, and the writer needs to find a connection with a story in order to make it work. But who's to say that you won't make a connection with something that's languishing on the Table of Discarded Ideas?
Just today, a friend suggested that an entertaining novel could be written based on misinformation found in Wikipedia, and I said, the novel should be written as a collection of Wikipedia entries. In fact, it should be an e-book with clickable links, hypertext, etc. I thought about it for another minute or two. What an intriguing idea, if it hasn't already been done! I began to imagine the various angles to approach it, the different stories that might work well in that format, and the idea seemed very appealing. Until it occurred to me that this was a great story idea I would probably never write, or I'd spend the first 50 pages being jazzed about it and then realize that it just wasn't my thing. So then I thought, well, someone should write it...
Along those same lines, I had an idea a while back for a poem constructed entirely of Facebook status updates. I started collecting provocative and irreverent updates with the idea of using them in this poem. Finally, I read through what I'd collected and said to myself, You know what? You are not a poet, and this is not going to work!
So, there you go; I've put two ideas on the table. Please help yourself while they're still warm.
July 16, 2009
What happened to the Good Humor man? I don't mean, why is he sometimes a woman; what I mean is, what happened to the Good and especially the Humor? Not long ago at the pool, the ice cream truck came. (In fact, it came every hour, until I wanted to throttle someone with the nearest SpongeBobsicle. Mark my words: There will be an ice cream truck-rage incident if this continues.)
No doubt driving one of these trucks is a thankless job (a job I'm sure I wanted when I was seven, because I thought one of the benefits was unlimited access), although the kids are always happy and remember...when prodded...to say thank you. The parents of the youngest kids wait in line with the hangdog expression that says it's too dang hot to have the argument, again, and when will they start carrying beer on that truck, anyway? The parents of the older kids hand out soggy bills and run for cover.
The other day, the woman behind the wheel reminded me of the witch from the Hansel and Gretel story AFTER she reveals her true colors and threatens to bake the kids in the oven. Has this always been the case, and I just didn't notice when I was a kid? Did the music warning of the truck's imminent arrival always sound disturbingly off-key, like the music they play in horror flicks over scenes with children in them, to let you know that SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG?
Wasn't the truck clean and tidy in the olden days? When the door slid open, you'd move as close as possible to feel the frosty air that was inside.
I mean, the last thing you want when you're handed your Nutty Buddy is a tight shot of the female purveyor's thick, sweaty armpit hair. (And this is not armpit hair that is making a political or life style statement. Trust me on that.)
Even the ice cream is different, now that red dye #2 is no longer allowed. But I have a feeling that even if it were all exactly the same, it wouldn't be.
The Dreamsicle of my youth is, after all, only a dream.
July 2, 2009
My novel is set in 1980 right around the 4th of July, and in the story, some pretty major events take place at the big neighborhood barbecue. I was thinking about this, and also thinking about how little has changed in the way I spend the 4th of July now compared with the way I spent it growing up. With the exception of the years when we used to go see the Beach Boys on the Mall (very little of which I actually remember), what we do now to mark the day is pretty much the same. Except for the macaroni salad. It's now PASTA salad tossed with balsamic and olive oil (hold the mayo, please!). And quite possibly, there won't be any Jell-O. But Jell-O is a variable I'm not willing to predict; it shows up when you least expect it. There will be cupcakes, both homemade and store-bought, mini and full-size. My son will want one of each, and I will say "pick one." Later, my husband and I will learn that we both said "pick one," and our son got away with it.
Unlike the cookout in my book, I'm assuming that no one will be telling bad Richard Pryor jokes while lighting the grill. And, probably, no one will quote Emerson. Or get stoned. Or have sex behind the pool pump room. Yes, this does all happen in my book. It did not happen to me. I want to make that clear, in case any former (or current) neighbors are reading this.
We have a parade on our street. All the kids ride bikes or scooters, and it's kind of cool to see who got their training wheels off each year. One mom takes charge and gets everyone to stand still for photos (she always succeeds--I think I need her to take our holiday shots this year), and someone has a boombox that plays corny patriotic music. Then we eat a lot and swim, and the kids shoot each other with high-powered water guns while all of us liberal parents look on in horror.
So, on Saturday, I'll be wearing my 33-year-old American Bicentennial hat, which I pull out just for the occasion, and eating my once-a-year burger. There's probably more to complain about regarding the State of the Union these days then there was when I was a kid (at least it seems that way), but for one afternoon, in keeping with the tradition, we'll only complain about property taxes.
Whatever your annual tradition is, or even if you don't have one, I hope you do something fun. And remember, if it contains mayonnaise, don't let it sit out too long.