Writer of Kidlit & Weird Stuff
I got the chance to join writer/blogger Willow Croft for her "Five Things Friday" feature on her blog Thanks, Willow! The interview is now live:
I've been lazy in keeping this site updated. What can I say except ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
My song "Cockatoo Calling" appeared in Ladybug's October issue, illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli. It was my first sale to Ladybug, but my fourth to see print.
My poem "Where's Teddy?" was published in the November issue, illustrated by Dream Chen. It was originally a song, but the lyrics were published as a poem--which is just as well, as the music was all minor chords and quite dismal.
More coming soon.
My poem, "A Song on a Seedcake," appears in the September 2020 issue of Ladybug. It's a double honor for me: not only do I have a piece in Ladybug's 30th anniversary issue, but I also share the issue with so many creatives, both writers and illustrators, whom I've gotten to know on Twitter these last seven months. Any reservations I ever had about being on social media are gone.
The poem is illustrated by the talented Emma Pedersen. This is what I love about illustrated kidlit, a writer and an illustrator creating something together. I'd love to see those "treat fairies" in their own PB.
The poem started with me just scribbling nonsense in a small yellow notepad.
For some reason, a square-dancey rhythm popped into my head, which I guess is where the line "Dance on dough" (docey doe) came from.
If there's a lesson here, it's trust your muse--but you have to meet her half-way. You have to sit down and start writing something, even if seems like gibberish at first. You can sometimes shape that gibberish into something that makes you want to dance.
(BTW, I hate square dance.)
Check out Emma Pedersen's work here:
For three days I've been reading and rereading author-illustrator Faith Pray's debut picture book, The Starkeeper, and I'm still in awe. There's so much depth to this little book, that it can be read on so many levels; children can enjoy it as well as highly literary adults who don't ordinarily read children's books. It's that good.
The Starkeeper is the story of a girl living in a dark world who finds a bright star in a fountain. At first she wants to keep it for herself, but then the star begins to grow dim.
At the risk of sounding pretentious, I'll say it reminds me a lot of Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parcival, an Arthurian grail story in which the grail is not a cup, but a stone which had fallen from the sky. The hero knight's mission is to heal the world which has become a waste land, and only accomplishes this mission through a spontaneous display of compassion.
The dream-like imagery and the mythological and folkloric motifs of the book are just begging for critical analysis, and at some point I'd like to try my hand at it. Faith Pray has really set the bar high with this one.
The shorter version: I love this book.
Seriously, check it out.
Here's my latest song to be published in Ladybug, "Oo La Lee," from the March 2020 issue, with art by Sairom Moon.
This was a song that hit me out of nowhere while I was messing around on my acoustic guitar. I got so super-excited about it that I quickly wrote it into sheet music and immediately sent it out to Ladybug.
A few days later, I went back to the song and did a pacepalm: "What was I thinking? This isn't good at all! Why did I send even send this?"
Whenever I finish a project--a poem, story, song, whatever--I generally like to let it sit and stew a bit so I can avoid these awkward situations. However, after waiting a month or so for the rejection I just knew was coming, I revisited the song once again, and... well, it still wasn't the genius bit of writing I'd originally thought it was, but it also wasn't as bad as I thought the last time I looked at it.
Still, I was quite surprised by the acceptance email.
As it was, though, I ended up rewriting half the lyrics in revision, much to the song's benefit.
The moral of the story is: the writer never really knows.
Now part of the fun in having a piece of writing accepted for one of the kidlit mags is looking forward to how an illustrator will interpret your piece and add to the overall aesthetic. How, I wondered, could an illustrator possibly illustrate the song? Well, Sairom Moon did it by throwing a party. Couldn't have been better.
Ladybug's March 2020 issue:
Sairom Moon's website:
Here's my song, "Lost Kitty," from the February 2020 issue of Ladybug. This piece marks both my and illustrator Alexandra Thompson's debut in Ladybug.
If you love the art as much as I do, check out her website and IG page for more--including the full original spread she did for our Ladybug piece without the printed song (my phone pic doesn't do the art justice). She also has a book coming out in June, A FAMILY FOR LOUIS, which you--and I--can preorder. Follow the link on her Twitter page for more.
So what can I say about the song? It came together pretty quickly: I wrote the lyrics, worked out the melody and rhythm, and figured out the chords one night, all on a cheap erasable magnetic pad. I kind of built the song around that D minor chord; I like slipping minor chords into children's songs whenever I can to add a little feeling of drama, a little depth of emotion.
The turnaround time for this song was insane: it appeared in print only four or five months after I sold it.
If you want to purchase the issue of Ladybug in which the song appears, you can find it here:
So in the last month and a half I've received contributor copies to... well, a bunch o' stuff: consecutive issues of Ladybug magazine (in which I have songs), consecutive issues of Scifaikuest and the Random Planets anthology (in which I have poems), and the previously mentioned Exchange Students anthology (in which I have a reprint flash piece).
I'll have lots of reading material while I'm hunkered down trying to avoid coronavirus.
I'm so happy to have a little flash piece in this latest anthology from David Lee Summers' excellent Hadrosaur Productions. Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, "An Averted Tragedy" was partly inspired by a book entitled Form and Meaning in Drama: A Study of Six Greek Plays and of Hamlet by H. D. F. Kitto.
My story was partly the subject of an illuminating coversation I had with my daughter not long ago. The conversation went something like this:
"Dad, you should check out this fan fiction."
"I'm really not into fan fiction."
"But you write fan fiction."
"Yeah, I've never written fan fiction in my life."
"What was your last story ["An Averted Tragedy"] about?"
"It's the story of what happens when Shakespeare's Hamlet and Sophocles' Ajax swap lives."
"What are you working on now?"
"A multiverse traveler kidnaps Odysseus, Gawain, Antigone, and Grendel, then--"
"You write fan fiction."
And then she dropped a microphone or something, not sure what that was all about...
Anyhoo, Exchange Students is in print and ebook formats on Amazon and at Smashwords:
So I'm finally on the interwebs... sort of. I'll make sporadic posts here, but I'm planning to spend most of my time on twitter--that is, whenever I get around to making a twitter page.
I'd planned on getting a website up and running last year, but my plans had to be put on hold: after ten years of dialysis, I finally got the call to receive a kidney transplant at the end of last August. Surgery went well, all my numbers looked good, and I went home after a five day hospital stay. At home, I spent the entire month of September stuck in a room recovering from surgery, with nothing to do but eat and sleep.
And man did I write. I probably wrote and submitted more pieces during that one September than I had in the previous two years. I was in pain... but I was on fire!
I just wish I could find some way to be "in the zone" for such extended periods without having to get major surgery.