Haiku Friday: Ducks

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

ducks are not bothered
by the yuck factor of slugs
they seem to like slime

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: How to Handle Nice People

The most frustrating kind of ghostwriting clients are not the ones you think. Usually they are the nicest people who have been brought up on the adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” What this means in interviews is that nearly everything these people say is likely to be boring, because “nice” has got to be the most yawn-producing word on the planet. Almost anything other than bland will offend somebody, and nice people try never to offend. So they stay nice or else – you guessed it – they don’t say anything at all.

Trying to winkle out interesting details from these taciturn folks can be quite a challenge. Here is one trick that I’ve found to be effective: I sometimes make up my own details. This is how this goes:

Ghostwriter: “So tell me more about Joe Smith so the readers can get to know him. You said he was ‘funny’ – so what kind of jokes did he tell? Can you remember any?”
Client: “Oh, you know, he was just funny. He could tell all sorts of jokes.”
Ghostwriter: “Like what?”
Client: “Funny ones, you know.”
Ghostwriter: “Did his jokes make fun of himself, or of other people? Or did he make puns, or plays on words?”
Client: “Um…”

And so on. This can take a long time. Instead of making both the client and myself frustrated, instead I’ll move on to something else and I’ll write a paragraph describing Joe Smith, expanding on a situation about Joe, making up details and jokes that I think are funny. Then I’ll show this to my client.

One of two things will happen. Either my client will say, “Oh, that sounds just like Joe!” (This makes me feel so intuitive, even psychic.) Or my client will say, “Oh, it didn’t happen like that – this is what happened, and this is the joke Joe told,” and they’ll proceed to tell me the specifics.

Either way, I’ll get the details that will make Joe Smith come alive on the page.

Compost: Crabfeed

Exactly 16 years ago today, my brother called me and asked me the same question he asked me every year at this time, unless I asked him first: “What are you getting Dad for his birthday?”

Our father was impossible to buy gifts for. He didn’t believe in what he called “conspicuous consumption” so he had all the “things” and “gadgets” that he needed or wanted. For Christmas and his birthday I often bought him books, and my brother often bought him things like sweaters or slippers, but these get old after a while, you know? One memorable birthday when my brother was around 12, he bought my dad a bag of Walla Walla sweet onions, because Dad had claimed that they were so sweet they could be eaten raw like apples. Then my brother dared Dad to eat one. Which he did. We have pictures.

But 16 years ago we were both adults and had been struggling to buy memorable birthday presents for many years, with varying degrees of success. That was the year our father turned 79. As we discussed our familiar dilemma, one of us said (my brother claims it was him, but I’m not sure this is true – it could have easily been me) “Hey, Dad loves crab, why don’t we just get him a whole bunch of crab and throw a feast for him and the whole family – all three of his kids, and all his grandchildren?” There were 6 grandchildren at that time, aged 22 to 1 month, although later there were more, and great-grandchildren too. Our father was crazy about his grandkids. He was an unusual man for his generation – he loved, absolutely loved, babies and little kids. So having a party centered around his kids and grandkids, and crab, was certain to make him happy.

We brought our mother into the picture, since she was the one who’d have to clean up the mess the party made of the house (we didn’t tell her this, but she knew it was true) and she agreed it was a great idea. We called this festival Crabfeed and it was a rousing success. There were Mom and Dad, their three kids, the kids’ spouses, the 6 grandchildren (at the time) and we had to put the extra leaf in the table to hold all the whole just-cooked Dungeness crab. (We live in the Pacific Northwest where Dungeness crab is to die for.) We also added steamed clams (my brother’s specialty, made with Chardonnay, butter, and garlic, and evil befall the grocery purchaser if she forgets the garlic, which I did once, ten years ago, and am still hearing about it today), and shrimp salad, and for one of our members who thought she was a vegetarian at the time, we had some pasta with tomato sauce. (It ruined the look of the table, but hey, we are an accepting family. The next year one of the other younger grandchildren caught a glimpse of a crab being boiled, and being a tender-hearted girl of 7, refused to eat the poor things. She joined her vegetarian cousin for pasta that year.)

We ate and ate and ate, and while we ate, we talked and talked and talked and laughed a lot. We told old stories. (You can bet the Walla Walla Sweet story was told). We told new stories. We talked about hopes and dreams for the future. We hashed over current events. We argued a little bit, although not bitterly. We loved each other.

And every year since then, around Dad’s Sept 27th birthday, we get together for another Crabfeed. We’ve not missed for 16 years. We have members in our family who don’t remember not having Crabfeed. It has taken on a life of its own. In our family you can’t miss Crabfeed – it would be like missing Christmas.

Last year, when our father was 93, was the last Crabfeed he attended. This year he will not be attending, at least not in the flesh, since he died a month ago. But Crabfeed goes on. We hope it goes on until the great-grandchildren are grandparents themselves. It is our holiday, our very own, a simple party just for us, full of crab and laughter and memories.

Haiku Friday: Fear

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

all fear is the same:
seeks to marry ignorance
and breed in the dark

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: Make Your Own Tradition

Today is the Autumn Equinox, also known as Mabon and Michaelmas. At the equinox there is a balance of Light and Dark, as the day and night are of equal length.

In my part of the world, the trees are coming alive with colors — orange, gold, deep red, and brown. The air is crisp and light. This is the time to give thanks for the earth’s bounty. Nuts and apples become ripe around this time, as do many other crops. It is time to gather and store them for sustenance in the coming winter. Here are some things I do with my friends and family to celebrate Mabon:

Have a feast! Serve autumn foods such as squash and corn, nuts and apples. Mabon is also called the Wine Harvest, so it is a good time to serve wines and ciders. Remember those less fortunate than yourself. Share your abundance by donating food to the hungry. Wear earth colors, orange or deep green or brown. Make a wreath of autumn leaves and wear it on your head.

Because Mabon symbolizes balance, make a mobile out of found objects. Go on an autumn walk, taking a basket or bag filled with ribbons, string, scissors, glue or tape. Pick up objects — beautiful leaves, moss, small rocks, twigs, bark —anything that strikes your fancy. Find some sticks and tie the sticks together in a mobile, hanging them with the found objects stuck on with glue or tied on with ribbons. Hang the mobile on a tree branch along your path, and leave it there as a surprise for the next passerbys.

If you live by water, talk a walk along the shore. Gather rocks and make a rock tower, balancing them one atop the other. Leave your tower for other beach walkers to marvel at.

Or make your own Mabon traditions. I’d love to hear about others, can you share them here?

Ghostwriting for a Dog: The Fallacy of Planning

Goody Beagle here. My human is dealing with big issues of life and death. Humans make too big a deal of death. That’s because they live in the future, worrying about what might happen, or planning what they’re going to do later, or trying to figure out ways to stop things from happening. I mean they spend WAY too much time on this.

Me, I spend my time just hangin’ out, like I always do. I go for walks and smell what’s happening now. If it’s sunny, I get warm. If it’s rainy, I get wet. If I smell rabbits or squirrels or raccoons, I am happy. If I smell coyotes, I go home. That’s about it.

There’s only one exception. I do plan on ways to get rid of The Cat. She’s still here, so it just goes to show that planning never works.

Haiku Friday: Photographs

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

lined up in a row
photos on the windowsill
tell you who you are

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: Settings

Setting can be problematic for a ghostwriter. But you cannot afford to ignore it. It is incumbent upon you to know something about the place where your client’s book is set, so you can portray it correctly. Settings are a big part of making the reader feel that they are “there.”

At least three-quarters of my clients’ books are set somewhere other than where I live or have lived. Right now I’m ghostwriting a book from someone in Cleveland Ohio, and another for someone in Florida. I have never been either place. In both books the setting plays a role in the story, especially in the book from Florida as my client is an athlete and some of the action takes place outside.

So I google Florida, and the immediate district where the action takes place, and the sports fields surrounding this district, and I take details from my client’s stories and google them too. I once ghostwrote a book that was about training horses. One of my client’s stories was of her as a teenager and her “job” mucking out the stalls at the local racetrack. I googled that racetrack and found all sorts of great and colorful stories that enabled me to get a sense of place, and hopefully impart that to the book’s readers.

Don’t forget the where. It’s just as important as the who, what, when and how.

Compost: Beginnings and Endings

Long ago, or maybe only yesterday …

When I tell stories, especially to children, I always start and end them the same way. My stories begin with “Long ago or maybe only yesterday” and the end with “And so it ends, or maybe it is just beginning.”

Storytelling is a magic art. I like to think that my way of beginning and ending stories draws a magic circle around the story, showing that it comes from a land of paradox and wonder where nothing is impossible and time is variable and might not even exist.

And so it ends, or maybe it is just beginning …

Haiku Friday: Mice

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

The cat yowls, which means
she is going to throw up
a half-eaten mouse

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.