Ghostwriting for a Dog: Goody Beagle on Neighbors

Neighbors are a pain. My human won’t let me go outside at night and howl at the moon – because of the neighbors. My human won’t let me go next door and poop on the nice freshly mowed lawn – because of the neighbors. My human won’t let me chase the cats who live across the street – because of the neighbors.

I’m not exactly sure what neighbors are, but they don’t seem to be very useful. I think we should try to get rid of them. We tried to get rid of the moles in our yard by using sound waves, but it didn’t work – the moles are still here. I think we should have tried it on the neighbors instead. They’re much worse than moles.

Haiku Friday: Troubles

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Troubles:

ah, our troubled earth
dull black slag and pus-green slime
and God’s voice, singing

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History: Sing a Song of 17

Do you want to feel young again? Or are you writing about a character who is a lot younger than you and you can’t remember what that felt like? Here’s a good way to get into that mindset. Pick a popular song from when you, or your character, was between the ages of 16 and 20. Maybe pick 2 or 3 songs from that time. Download the songs to your iPod and listen for a while. I guarantee you will feel 17 again.

If you want to explore the emotions these songs evoke in you, take one of the lines from your song and use it as the first line in a paragraph, and see where it takes you.

It may take you places of nostalgia and bliss. But it also may take you to nostalgia and bitterness. When I did this exercise with “Let the Sunshine In” from the musical Hair, yes I felt that great hopeful naiveté, full of passion and longing to let that sunshine in. I also felt enormous sadness because 40 years later the sunshine still hasn’t come in, and darkness yet endures.

Compost: Nothing Happens without the Writers

Many teenage girls dream about becoming an actress. They see themselves on stage or on the screen, so much more beautiful than they are in real life, watched by drooling men and jealous women.

But that was never my dream. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. I too fantasized about the stage and the screen, but I saw actors saying the lines I wrote for them, and becoming the characters I created.

And let’s be honest here – those actors, actresses, producers, directors, cinematographers, stage hands, and the rest – would not have a job without the WRITERS. The writers are where it all begins. There would be no movies or plays without us.

It’s always irritated me that the writing awards at the Oscars and other award shows are not considered one of the “big ones”. When the nominations are announced, the writing nominations are hidden in the middle of lists, along with sound editing and costume design (actually costume design gets better press). Critics seldom wax poetic about the writers – even though critics themselves are writers!

My theory is that there’s a conspiracy between the rest of the movie/play crew to keep the writers from knowing how important they are. It’s not just that they might ask for more money (although more money is always a good thing.) It’s because the writers might get more attention, prestige, honor, and acclaim. This would take too much attention off the actors, actresses, directors, etc. And that would never do.

Don’t be fooled. If you’re a writer, the stories don’t get told without you. You matter – even if your award comes in the boring middle of the show.

Haiku Friday: Grace

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Grace:

change your hard-ass words
pray for grace above all else
for what else is there?

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Writing Tip – Self-Publish or Not?

You meet two authors, and you ask who their publishers are. One says, “Simon and Schuster published my book All The Way.” The other says, “I self-published my book Part of the Way.” Which author do you respect more? Who are you more likely to listen to about the joys and perils of writing?

If you’re honest, you’ll pick the author published by a recognized publisher. Even if the publisher is one you’ve never heard of, you’re still going to give that author more credence than the one who admitted to self-publishing.

There is a stigma still adhering to self-publishing, and you might as well admit it. It is true that this is changing rapidly, as is everything in the publishing industry. But there is a reason authors do not want to admit to self-publishing, and that is because sometimes this stigma is deserved.

The difficult truth is that many (not as many as there used to be) self-published authors don’t write as well as they should in order to move their readers and sell books. Self-published books are often not written by professional writers or edited by professional editors – and you can tell. They may be dull, confusing, disorganized, unfocused, and preachy. They may suffer from ills such as voice inconsistency, poor word choice, run-on sentences, redundancies, clichés, generalities instead of specifics, telling instead of showing, and the overuse of hyperbolae.
Writing that sings, that is powerful, compelling, and sticks with you long time, is the product of skill, art, talent & practice. Not everyone has these.

Yet they may have a wonderful story to tell. One of my primary missions as a ghostwriter and editor is to help eliminate any stigma that may still be clinging to self-published books by helping first-time authors attain writing excellence.

So sure, go ahead and self-publish. There are many pros to this route. But just make sure your writing is worthy of being published, by you or anyone else.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Goody Beagle on Sharing

I would never make it in Kindergarten because I don’t believe in sharing. At least not for myself. Humans can share – I expect my human to share with me – but that’s because humans already own everything. If they didn’t share, all us dogs would die off.

But it’s just stupid to expect us dogs to share. It’s not in our DNA. Sharing would mean I’d have to let the cat eat my food – and that will never happen. I eat her food sometimes, but I don’t call it sharing – I call it stealing. I mean, let’s be honest here. And sharing would also mean I’d have to let Alex MadMutt chew his bone in front of me, and this is not okay. Even if I have a bone of my own, it is still not okay. If there are two bones, then I should have both of them.

Of course Alex thinks this too, and that’s why my human should shut Alex up in a separate room when she gives me a bone. That would be okay with me. If it’s not okay with Alex, that’s his problem. He should get his own human. Because I’m not sharing mine.

Haiku Friday: Tulips

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Tulips:

petals will open
tulips show their hot male hearts
make love to yourself

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History – Cartoons Matter Too

You don’t have to go deep to write about history. The small stuff matters too, just as much or maybe more than the big stuff. For instance, cartoons provide a rich vein for writing. To get you started, here are some things that happened between 1959 and 1989 in cartoonland:

The baby boom generation was the first raised on Saturday morning cartoons, and the sixties delivered a tremendous wallop of classic cartoons to feed their hungry appetites. Rocky and Bullwinkle, along with their friends Boris and Natasha, were intro¬duced in late 1959 and developed a following that lasts until today. The team of Hanna Barbera gave us The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, and The Jetsons during this decade. “Yabba dabba doo” and “smarter than the average bear” became part of our language. In comic books, the superhero Spiderman was born in 1962.

In the seventies Scooby Doo was a big hit, and for the young adult baby boomers the comic strip with an attitude, Doonesbury, premiered in 1970. Garfield the Cat was born in 1978, and comic books saw the introduction of Conan the Barbarian.

Hugely popular with children in the eighties were the Care Bears, who debuted in 1983, and the Smurfs, who emigrated from Europe to the US in 1981. 1984 saw the birth of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a marketing phenomenon. In comic books dark fantasy and horror were popular genres.

A personal note: I can still hear Edward Everett Horton’s distinctive voice in my mind as he narrated the Fractured Fairy Tales from the Rocky & Bullwinkle show. In fact, I have to go see if I can find one on U-Tube or Netflix right now. I’m having a craving.

And then I’ll write about it.

Compost: Dirty Feet

I’ve been writing essays lately for my family, because my father is old and my mother is dead, and I don’t want their stories to be lost. But sometimes the stories are not really stories. I sat down the other day to write about my mother’s dainty ways, but what I wrote about was a little different.

My mother had a phobia about dirty feet. She once told me a story about her father, a fireman, coming home and getting into bed with her mother. Her mother screamed and pushed him out of bed, yelling about his filthy feet and her new sheets. The disgust and contempt in her mother’s voice made such an impression on my mother’s 10-year old mind that ever afterward she feared dirty feet like they were a dangerous disease that would exile you from all good company, kind of like leprosy.

My mother always made me wash my feet before I went to bed, it was part of the nightly routine, like brushing my teeth. She policed this strictly because I hated shoes and liked to walk barefoot everywhere, even in mud. My mother said this was common and people would think we were poor. I didn’t pay much attention because I knew people didn’t care if I wore shoes or not, and besides she washed my sheets every other day whether I washed my dirty feet or not.

I also didn’t like socks, especially the white anklets my mother insisted I wear. It seemed to me that socks made your feet smell worse; I can still recall the shrieking argument we once had about this point. She herself didn’t wear white anklets, of course, she wore nylon stockings instead, which also had to be washed out every night and hung in the bathroom. I remember her scrubbing with her special nylon-scrubbing brush to make sure she got the last vestige of stray dirt out of the toes of those stockings.

When I was a child and especially a teenager, my mother’s dirt-hating proclivities were a source of irritation. But now I look back on these memories with compassion and pity, and I so wish I had been more understanding. I would have washed my feet more often.