Ghostwriting for a Dog: A May Day party

Goody Beagle here. Tomorrow my human is having a human party to celebrate something called Beltane, also known as May Day. Everyone wears red and they eat red things like strawberries and tomatoes and Delicious apples and rare roast beef and they drink red wine and cranberry juice. You can probably guess which of these is my favorite (hint: it’s the food with blood.)

My human will make me wear a red bow around my neck. She will try to make Alex wear a red bow too, but I know that he will just chew it off and spit the pieces on the ground. Alex is still trying to learn human manners, but he is a slow learner. Either that or he just doesn’t care.

No one will try to make The Cat wear anything, although I think my human should try – either The Cat will lose the skirmish and get to look stupid (glorious thought) or my human will sprout blood from her scratches, and after all, blood is red. Not that I want my human to be hurt, I just want her to see red and get rid of The Cat. (I know this will never happen.)

Haiku Friday: Talent

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

talent means nothing
to play in the major leagues
you must work hard too

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: Smell Your Writing

I’ve given this tip before, but I want to share it again in case you missed it the first time.

Our oldest sense, lodging right down there at the base of our reptilian brains, is smell. Describing the way things smell is a powerful way of creating a “you are there” sense in your reader. It is also one of the best ways to evoke buried memories. If you are remembering or describing an event, ask yourself what you smell. Do you remember the sweetness of the lilacs blooming in the front yard, or the hot smell of burning rubber, or the welcoming smell of frying onions? Here is a piece I wrote about the smells of the past:

I remember smelling the cheap wine we drank in college, so sweet it would make me gag now. It was called Ripple and was favored by winos, a class of people I knew absolutely nothing about, but we were liberal hippies and thought we should identify with the underdogs. At parties we drank Ripple a lot, because of the other quality it possessed – it was cheap. But I remember one party when I was introduced to other flavors, a dark party held in someone’s third floor apartment, lit by blue lava lamps and the glow from the neon tetras in the dirty fish tank. An older guy came to the party – he was 30 at least – bringing with him a bottle of Scotch and cubes of hashish; he wore an army jacket and his hair in a ponytail. From this description you can tell that he was cool and all the girls wanted him, including me. My ego swelled to the exact same size as my fear when his eyes – and his hands – chose me. He smelled like leather and cigarettes when he kissed me, and underneath was the smell of dark wild masculinity, a thrilling smell that shrieked danger! danger! and which I of course chose to ignore.

Haiku Friday: Blessing

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

May Spirit pet you
May Her warm breath surround you
May your fur lie flat

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: Look Forward

Genealogists and historians look backward at the past. What they hope to find are people who did the opposite and looked forward to the future.

In 200 years or so, one of your descendants could come looking for you. What do you want them to find? Just your name and the dates you were born and died? Aren’t you about more than that?

Think forward about your descendants. Remember that your life too, is part of the historical record. Preserve your stories – in your own words. Write those stories down!

You don’t have to tell it all — the lessons from thirty, fifty, eighty years of living can seem a daunting prospect to write, or even remember. To convey a sense of who you are or what is important to you, write about significant motivators in your life — what your passions are, what lessons you have learned, or who you have loved.

If your goal is to leave a legacy to your descendants or future historians, your writings may become a primary source – a historical term that means you were present at a particular event or during a specific time. For instance, if your great-great-great-grandfather voted against Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860, or fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, or helped runaway slaves escape on the Underground Railway, or was a friend of Jefferson Davis – wouldn’t you like to read his own words on the subject? Well, who might be reading your words in 200 years?

We make wills to ensure our possessions are passed on to those who cherish them or can use them. But possessions are just things. Stories are alive. One of the greatest gifts you can give your descendants is the story of who you are. What were your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your griefs? What did you learn? What did you teach? Who did you love?

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Treat Review

Goody Beagle here. My human buys Alex and me treats. She buys Vita Bone dog biscuits, Milkbone dog biscuits, Beggin Strips that taste and smell like bacon, and some kind of anti-gas tablets for Alex. (He has stinkiness, as I have written about before.)

I like all of the above, even the anti-gas tablets. The only time I get to eat the anti-gas tablets is when Alex spits his out. He doesn’t like them, because Alex is picky. Our human sometimes sticks the anti-gas in canned dogfood, because he does like that and he eats the anti-gas before he knows it. I don’t think this is fair, because I don’t get the extra canned dogfood, and the only reason is because I don’t suffer from stinkiness. Why am I being punished for a good thing? I am a poor deprived beagle.

Alex doesn’t like the Milkbones either, although he is neutral about the Vita Bones – sometimes he’ll eat them, sometimes he’ll let me eat his. (This does not make up for the extra canned dogfood, however.) But Alex is a big fan of the Beggin Strips, and he would try to steal mine if I wasn’t so quick at gulping it down.

I don’t see the point of being picky. The only thing I don’t like is olives. Luckily there don’t seem to be any olive-flavored dog treats.

Haiku Friday: Broody

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

brooding is hard work
quick gossip over the worms
then back to sitting

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: It’s Not About You

Recently I had a client tell me she was “offended” because I made the remark that as her ghostwriter, I was “writing for the reader.” She thought I should have said I was writing for her, not the reader.

She was wrong. I was not writing “for” her – I was writing “as” her. That’s what a ghostwriter does. The author – and therefore the ghostwriter – should always be writing “for” the reader.

This may seem really basic, but I am always amazed at how many writers forget about the reader, and only write “for themselves.” “I write for myself,” they state, as if they are proud of it, as if this means they are a “real” writer, in touch with their muse.

But books, blogs, and articles are all about communication. All effective communication is 2-way. The written word is no exception.

You have to know what is important to your reader. Otherwise, he or she will not read your writing. People have a choice to read your article/book/blog, or not to read it. It’s as simple as that.

Not only your topic must interest them, but how you present your topic must be done in a way that they will understand or be entertained by. Some people think that “slanting” your writing to what your reader cares about is selling out/ betraying the “muse,” or pandering and manipulation.
Wrong. Slanting your writing so that your reader can “hear” you is simply good communication. It shows respect for your reader. You are paying attention to who they are, and what they care about.

Tailoring your writing to your reader’s “care abouts” allows you to elicit emotional responses from them. Emotional responses are what leads to action or change, and that’s ultimately what you’re trying to get from your reader – you want them to do something, or learn something.

Remember that a writer is just the vehicle or conduit for ideas or art. For your ideas or art to fulfill their function, they must be heard, seen, felt, and understood by others. Your writing is not for you – it’s for them.

Compost: Idiosyncratic Spelling Puzzle

Recently my 6-year-old granddaughter Ellie sent me an example of her schoolwork. It was a “fill in the blanks” form that went like this:

I have a dream. My dream is:
_______________________________________________
_______________________________________________

I can help my dream come true by:
_______________________________________________
_______________________________________________

Ellie filled it out thus:

I have a dream. My dream is:

Nobutieliders.____________________________________
_______________________________________________

I can help my dream come true by:

Picking up trash___________________________________
When I see It._____________________________________

It took me some time to figure out what her first line – “Nobutieliders” meant. When I did I was so proud – of her dream, although I’m not too sure about her spelling. What about you? Can you decipher what Ellie meant?