This is an article I wrote for a publication called Fort Meade Daily News. Enjoy!
Born in 1904 in California, Seuss had a very successful writing career. Hated his work to be described using the word ‘whimsical’ and kept much of his life private while suffering from stage fright. His death in 1991 left a hole in the hearts of Seuss fans everywhere.
Growing up with a bookshelf full of Hop on Pop and Fox in Socks, I often re-read these classics and enjoy the way the words seem to roll off of my tongue so effortlessly. I can’t help but to imagine how these books might have sounded with a different catapult behind them….say….a southern one.
You can’t imagine what I’ve discovered living on Mulberry Street….Mulberry Street in Alabama, that is. There is plenty to see from yonder to me and you won’t quite believe what your mind will conceive. Front porches with hound dogs spread out across mats, only moving when needing to chase away gnats. Big fat aunt Berthas with moon pies in hand, wearing curlers and a moo-moo, kids playing in the sand. “Get yerself inside, do sumthin with yer hair…don’t make me get my switch and come after yer tail, hurry up and get in the car, Piggly Wiggly is havin a sale.”
You’ll see cats running wild and an occasional goat, the one on the corner always standing in a boat. He’s got nary a tail cause the bull chewed it good but he’s great entertainment for all the kids in the hood. On Saturday night you can try for 8 seconds….but little Billy counts slow, for his numbers, he don’t quite know. One second, two seconds, three seconds, four….but by then that billy goat done knocked you to the floor. Next time you’ll win it cause you got a plan….nail handle bars to those horns , the rules say you can!
And the visitors that visit cause quite a stir; often leaving reminders of visits and the things that occur, like the Cat in the Hat all covered with fur. He arrives in a Buick with camo-colored seats, his fur flyin out the windows, smoking cat-nip treats. Adjusting his overalls, he struts up to the house; a dip in his mouth, the size of a mouse. Behind him a box brought along for the ride, with a bright yellow sticker that reads “rednecks inside.” He opens the box and what do I see, two tiny little cowboys as tall as my knee. With belt buckles large, what was I to do? On those buckles I read “Redneck One and Redneck Two.” They were cussin like sailors, tobacco they’d spit and I was soon to discover that the little one bit. They let themselves in and started looking for food. They made quite a mess and were extremely rude. They plundered through the cupboards looking for the Spam, but all that they found were some green eggs and ham. “Were’s the mustards and cabbage?” they started to shout. “Fry up sum cornbread n taters,” I started to doubt….that this mess they were making would ever come clean, then that Cat in the Hat produced a bright shiny machine. “It’s a clean-a-nator 2000,” he pushed it my way….and as it turned on, I had nothing to say. That thing was here to hopefully save the day. It sucked up the rug but I didn’t mind, it was just an old one, a flea market find. That machine was a cleanin, fast as Nascar, it ran quicker than Lil Billy, that time he was kicked out of the bar. Soon that old trailer was nothing but shine and that machine headed out, it seemed just in time. But before it was gone, it did just what it had to do, it reached across the living room and sucked up Redneck One and Redneck Two.
Most never leave Mulberry Street; this is something that I know. But those that escape, oh, the places that they’ll go!! Most head up north cause the ocean is down…and they know they can’t swim and don’t
want to drown. Some head for the mountains and some for the hills, some end up in Arkansas, working in mills. Some try to fit in with folks from the city but they don’t drink sweet tea and that’s just a pity….one boy I know ended up in New York City. He tried drinking pop and reading real books…the kind with no pictures that are published on Nooks. He started combing his hair with a comb, very fine, and on days he felt fancy, he gave his tooth a great shine. He mended his undies and washed all his socks and put away all his collection of rocks and began collecting stamps, of which he became very proud, and burning his rebel flag brought in quite a crowd. He traded his truck for a nice Land Rover and found him a lady which he tried to win over. But his roots started showing whenever he spoke, when he told her bout momma and how she could toke. “She had learnt it in prison after she killed my dad, he had been kicked out of the circus and come home real mad. He got to fussin at maw and she had enough, she grabbed up her skillet and come at him rough. She gave him some whacks and a woop-ly-doos, and before he knew it she knocked him right out of his shoes.” Needless to say, that boy’s story was rejected and he headed back to Mulberry, just as I had suspected. As he rode into town, he looked up to see….an old oak with no branches, his family tree. He stopped and he smiled, he had made it back home. Where old cars lined the property and every yard had a gnome. Where you could spend your days counting one fish or two and if you got lucky, saw one in red or in blue. Where if you paid close attention Yertle the Turtle was near and if you listened real close you knew what Horton could hear. Where kids hopped on pop and visited Sam I Am and pockets were filled with wockets and little boys say yes ma’am.
There are countless records of God speaking to humans all throughout the Old and New Testaments. In Daniel (5:5-9) God spoke a message of doom to Belshazzar using words written on a wall by the fingers of a man’s hand. In Jonah (chapter 2) God sends a clear message of correction to Jonah through the belly of a big fish. And in Genesis (32:22-32) God spoke to Jacob through a wrestling match which caused Jacob to have a displaced hip! But perhaps the sweetest, most amazing account was when God used His angel, Gabriel, to give Mary a message that would change everything, for all of humanity.
Luke 1:26 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” Mary was young. Mary was poor. Mary was female. She was starting off with three strikes against her when you consider the society in which she was living. She would not have been seen as someone who God would use to bring into the world the most precious gift He had to offer. Yet He did choose Mary. Why? Perhaps because God saw into her heart and knew she was just the one to carry out such a heavy plan. Or perhaps He wanted to show that He can use anyone, even with strikes against them. Perhaps He knew that one day you would sit and read these words, feeling like a hopeless mess that isn’t any good to God. He isn’t looking for perfect. He isn’t looking at your education or your human abilities. He is looking for a sweet spirited Mary with the willingness that she displayed in verse 38 with the words, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
There isn’t any doubt in my mind that Mary’s mind was all over the place. The Bible shows her willingness but it never says her nerves were calm. She was at risk for losing everything. Her peers would ridicule her and Joseph could very well have her stoned to death for committing adultery. The journey ahead of her would be one like no other mother in history until then or since has ever had to face. Her son; the little boy that was birthed in a lowly manger, peering up at her with the clearest of eyes, latching hold of her finger as he pierced her heart with his infant perfection; she would one day watch as he was mocked and beaten. She would watch him flinch under the cattails attached to a whip. She would see his body collapse in pain, no longer able to carry the cross he so undeservingly was sentenced to. She was there as he called out to God for the forgiveness of the very men who were putting Him to death. And she watched her beloved baby boy draw in His last breath before He gave up everything on a dark, gloomy hill as He swallowed up man’s sin once and for all.
But in that moment, as God’s messenger stood before her, Mary pondered what she knew. She knew she had a purpose. She knew that God wanted to use her. She knew that no matter what, He would be right there with her. God speaks to us and gives us what information we need for the moment that we are in. Mary knew that God had called her for something extraordinaire, something so much bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. And when God spoke to Mary, in her humble and willing heart she answered, “Yes, God.”
I can always use a little inspiration!
We’re nearing the end of National Novel Writing Month and entering the season of giving thanks, so I thought I’d share a few presentations by writers to inspire you.
These are TED Talks – short (~20 minutes) inspirational talks you can find on YouTube for just about any topic you’d like.
Writing books: Elizabeth Gilbert – your elusive creative genius (author of Eat, Pray, Love)
We’re all creative.
Storytelling: Andrew Stanton – clues to a great story (Filmmaker – Toy Story, WALL-E)
Greatest story commandment is “make me care.”
Poetry: Billy Collins – Everyday moments, caught in time (former U.S. Poet Laureate)
Bugs Bunny is his muse. <smile>
Storytelling (~4 minutes): Joe Sabia – the technology of storytelling
You’ll remember the name Lothar Meggendorfer after this video.
Enjoy the videos! I hope they inspire.
Have a great week!
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I was recently given a prompt in a writers meeting that has been, by far, one of the more entertaining prompts. I had so much fun with this one. The prompt was “I’ve got the Halloween boos”
I believe that it was meant to cause one to consider writing on “Halloween Blues,” but I chose to be different and I wrote about Halloween Booze. Enjoy! 🙂
I swear to you, a swear like no other
I just saw Dracula holding hands with my mother!
Not to mention that witch, flying high on her broom
Sweeping across the ceiling of this very room.
And the Grim Reaper over there, keeps giving me the eye
He’s either flirting, or I’m about to die!
The ghosts all started dancing, a ghostly twerk
And the bartender, Frankenstein, is really quite a jerk.
A skeleton is serving drinks, drinks a plenty
And if you want my opinion, the devil has had one too many!
And what about that scarecrow, attacked by a bat
He never saw it coming, now there’s poop on his hat!
And that eerie looking goblin who struck me as odd
He is now looking handsome and what a nice bod.
Wait…putting it all together, it’s time for me to cruise
Cause I think I’ve been dipping in the Halloween booze!!
The sun starts to make its way into the western sky, leaving in the clouds behind it the most radiant shades of red and orange. Dark is coming which only motivates me to clear my dinner plate faster knowing that I won’t be excused from the table until I do. After I get the okay from momma, I jump up from my seat and run full force through the house and out of the front door causing the screen door to slam closed behind me. Dad shouts a warning, “don’t slam the door,” but I don’t even look back. I make my way across the driveway and over into the next yard. Outside, my papaw is watering his well-kept rose bushes and manicured lawn. He lifts the water hose my way, pretending that he is going to soak me with it but I know better from the many times we’ve played this game before. I make my way through his yard and up to the house. I sling open the front door and yell inside. “We going today?” I wait to hear the small, sweet voice of the woman who makes my world turn. I know she’s in the kitchen, finishing up the dinner dishes but I don’t dare step inside with my shoes on. “Almost ready,” I hear my memaw call out.
It doesn’t take much to keep a eight-year-old girl from Frostproof, Florida entertained. We head down the driveway together and start out on our mile-long walk which consists of walking the streets of our neighborhood, Overocker Circle, four times. I don’t remember the days before our walks started, in my mind it’s just what we’ve always done. I don’t think that it was the walks that I enjoyed but rather the games that were played along the way. We sang nursery rhymes, played I-spy, told stories and talked about our day. Walks around that little country block is where I was first introduced to Baa, Baa Black Sheep, The Three Bears, and Henny Penny. I heard my very first Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl with sweaty palms and tired feet after a few times around the circle. I listened to made-up stories and configured my very own tall tales. Those moments were without a doubt where I first formed my love of words. I loved every word that came out of her mouth and now wish so much to have the opportunity to hear them all over again. As I memorized the songs and stories that she would teach me, I immediately began teaching them to my little sister. I just knew that she would need to know them one day for her walks with memaw. As our walks got fewer and fewer, we began taking along a notebook full of our little rhymes and I only recently realized its purpose. My memaw was losing her memories. My little sister would never enjoy the long walks and playful songs with our memaw. Alzheimer’s took that opportunity away before she was old enough to even understand what was happening.
I write every day of my life now. Oftentimes I think of my memaw while I do knowing that she would be proud of me following my dreams. I am so grateful for the time that I had with her and the writer that I have become because of that time. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I keep my own notebook now that I will one day share with my grandchildren as we hurry through our dinner plates, rushing outside to meet for our walks.
Sometimes the thought of writing can be scary. You don’t even have to mention the word novel, it can be as simple as keeping a journal, sharing memories with a loved one or trying your hand at poetry. No matter how much practice you’ve had or how big (or small) your project might be, the thought of completing a written piece may seem like a stretch. Breaking it down, step-by-step, helps the beginning writer see that it’s really only a series of small tasks that produce an end result you can be proud of.
Before you begin:
Make a plan: Have an idea of what you wish to accomplish. If you want to write family stories and recipes for future generations, make a list of what all you want to include. If you wish to write short stories or a novel, you will need to begin with a basic outline.
Set up your work area: This doesn’t mean that you have to construct a library and find a desk with one of those old timey writer’s lamps. It simply means to make an area that is quiet and inspires you. Your writing area may be a cozy corner in your bedroom or outside on a swing somewhere. No rules!
Set your schedule: Make a plan and stick to it. If you need to take time off, schedule that as time off. Make sure that this time is uninterrupted time and let others know that you will be unavailable. This will help you maintain the integrity of your schedule.
And you’re off:
Start small: Aim to write no more than 300 words per day. This helps you get going without feeling overwhelmed. You will know when you are ready to increase your word count.
Have clear goals: Whether it be a word count, chapter completion, or other goal, make sure you have some. This will help you track your progress and keep you on target.
Get ongoing feedback: Find an honest person and learn to take criticism. It is better to realize you’re in a mess early on rather than when you’ve finished your entire piece.
Wrap it up:
Edit: edit, edit, edit. Then edit once more!
Share: Don’t put that piece in a drawer somewhere! Share it with someone. Send it to a publisher, self-publish, or give to a friend. You’ve worked hard, be proud!
Get back to it: Start a new piece. The more you write, the easier it gets so get started on something new right away.
Find your support:
Find a great writer’s group where you can share and learn with other writers.
Calhoun Area Writer’s Meeting
Friday, July 25
Harris Arts Center Community Room
Karli Land firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a harsh reality
Living between two worlds
One seen with eyes wide open
One seen with eyes closed tight
Eyes closed, perfection
Only laughter, only beauty
Eyes opened, a broken world
People dying, children lost
Eyes closed, there are no limits
No worries, no cares
Eyes opened, loved ones lost
Gone too soon, true despair
Eyes closed, adventures await
Go anywhere, be anyone
Eyes opened, life mundane
Day to day, mere existence
Eyes closed, adventures grow weary
Hidden in darkness, kept still
Eyes opened, beyond worries
Little ones laughing, joy abounds
Eyes closed, no longer appealing
Suddenly constricted, slightly imprisoned
Eyes opened, human connection
My little ones playing
Eyes closed, colors have faded
I long for the light
Eyes opened, where I want to be
Eyes closed, I’m missing too much
Moments slip by
Eyes opened, I realize this place
Which I have tried to avoid
Is exactly where I want to be
Trying my hand at some amateur poetry. 🙂
This is written about a man who died during a church service (which actually happened)….and is a 3 part poem. First part is the perspective of the preacher who was preaching, second part is from the little boy in the pew behind the man, third part is from Josephine Jenkins, the mans wife. Hope you like it!
THE DAY THAT OL’ MAN JENKINS DIED
My name is James McMillon and I work a farm these days
I used to be a pastor and led my sheep in praise
I still have sheep, sheep a plenty, but its not quite the same
These sheep are quiet, dont eat as much, and they are way more tame
I miss those days, standin tall, preachin till bout noon
Had no idea I’d be run off, and all so very soon
You see I was there that sad, dark day and remember it so well
I never saw him pass away, I missed it when he fell
I heard the shrieks and all the screams, thought my message was that good
So I started yellin a little louder, thought my words were understood
Now’s a good time to pass the plate, with everyone so aroused
I had no idea what was happening and what our tiny church had housed
I saw sweet Josephine sittin there, with terror on her face
I knew the spirit was workin, so I ran to her with haste
I asked for her weekly offering, just a mere ten percent is all
Thats when I saw him layin there and I swear this is what happened y’all
I thought that he was stoopin down, to try to miss the plate
So I told everyone to hush up now, the offering could wait
I explained that greediness was bad and especially playin dead
And before I knew what was goin on, I used my Bible and struck his head
I saw Betty Lou raise to her feet, and come at me with her purse
I ducked and turn to run thinkin things couldn’t get much worse
But I was wrong cause her husband Jesse came at me pretty fast
I took off down the isle and left that crazy church in my past
I’d say that day caused quite a stir, forced me now to hide
I preached my very last sermon, the day that ol’ man Jenkins died
My name is little Billy Barters and I have a funny story to tell
It all happened late last spring, I watched him as he fell
I gotta admit I was cross that day, as we pulled into the lot
I had gotten the switch from dad already cause I called my sister a snot
As I threw myself down in my seat, my view blocked by Josephine’s hat
I conjured up a dirty plan and turned into a sneaky rat
You see, the man was always grumpy, never a kind word to say
Always complaining about something, he was set in his cranky old way
The building is too cold, the music is too loud
I’m gonna stop coming to this church, cause I just can’t stand the crowd
There’s too many kids around, you would hear him mumble
And don’t get me started bout the service running over, his stomach would start to grumble
It started out pretty innocent, a small spit ball or two
But then I had the idea of ideas, you see, pranks were all I knew
I reached into my backback, right on past the good book
I had to be real sneaky, cause dad was giving me the look
I waited for the right moment, waited till he was barely awake
I took my hand from my bag and I pulled out a rubber snake
My sister, she just watched me, didn’t even tattle
She knew paybacks would be awful, after dad gave me the paddle
So just as the preachin reached its hallelujah peak
I laid that snake upon his shoulder and waited for the shriek
At first he didn’t notice, he was noddin off real good
So in udder desperation, I did all that I could
I threw my finger in my mouth and scooped up a finger full of spit
I gave that man a wet willy, as sloppy as wet willys get
His head shot up, he grabbed his ear and much to his surprise
As he turned to see a snake in his hands, I saw terror in his eyes
Many times I look back with a chuckle, and many times I’ve just cried
That was the last prank I ever pulled, the day Ol man Jenkins died
My name is Josephine Jenkins and I lost so much that day
My husband, my faith, my sanity, I seem to have lost my way
You see, he wasn’t outgoing, he wasn’t friendly, not many a kind word he shared
But for me, I didn’t need all that stuff cause I knew deep down he really cared
It was the little things that he did for me, things you would never see
Like the day that my daddy died, in the backyard he planted a tree
He bought me the book Gone With The Wind that time when my back went out
He propped me up, fixed me some tea, and asked what the book was about
He always remembered me at holidays, and he always had a surprise
And saturday morning with him by my side, we’d watch the sunrise
That day was a shock to many, I’m sure a day they’d like to forget
But that day makes me look back on my life and I have not one regret
As he laid there so lifeless, I admit I struggled to hold back the tears
I held him for the first time as he had done for me all those years
I knew that it was over, a soft goodbye I cried
I lost my life and my best friend, the day my husband died.