Everything Books
Writing and reading and books, books, books (and anything that might relate)

December 24, 2012

A Christmas Story

When I was nine years old, my parents and I moved from Maryland (where we lived on the water and sailed and ate fresh seafood, which we often caught ourselves, and spent time on our own little sliver of beach) to landlocked Indiana (where a narrow creek ran through our back yard).

I wasn’t one bit happy about this move, and our very first Christmas there I wrote a story, which I also illustrated, that… shall we say… reflected this.

All these years later, on Christmas Eve 2012, I’d like to share it with you.

The Late Christmas

In Hoosier City everything was a dark gray. The mail boxes were gray, the people’s clothes were gray, what they ate was gray, and the sky was gray. Not one person was happy.

One day a jolly old man came to Hoosier City. He met Mr. Vox Poxie, the king of gray. Mr. Vox Poxie inquired what he was doing on his property.

“Why I…” the trespasser stuttered.

“Enough!” commanded the king. The king led Santa Claus (for that was his name) through the town. Santa stared sadly at the people. An old woman who was hanging battered clothes on an old clothesline in her tiny, gray yard almost broke his heart.

They walked on. Santa Claus eyed the shabby houses with little children playing unhappily in their yards. A tear rolled down his cheek and soaked his beard thoroughly.

Finally they reached Mr. Vox Poxie’s castle. The king invited Santa Claus inside. “Now once again, why are you here?” the king inquired.

“Well I…”

“Enough!” said the king. Santa Claus stared at the king, thinking this man is crazy! “Well now, what is your name name?” asked the king.

“Kris Kringle. But everybody calls me Santa Claus.”

“Oh well, why are you here then?” asked the king.

“Well I…” Santa Claus started.

“Enough chatter!” cried the king. “Let me show you around.” Santa Claus followed the king through room after room until they were back in the main room.

“You never did tell me why you were here,” said the king.

“I did try, you know,” said Santa. “My sleigh broke down. You see, Prancer and Dancer have this thing going between each other, Dancer being a girl, and Prancer being a…”

“Enough!” shouted the king.

“You might not get any Christmas presents if you keep that temper,” said Santa. “Well anyway, they stopped flying and started to talk, and the sleigh stopped, and here I am,” finished Santa, quite out of breath from talking.

“Oh, I see,” said the king.

“Do you know of a hotel that I could stay in?”

“Oh heavens no!” exclaimed the king. “You can sleep in my wife’s room.”

“Won’t she mind?” asked Santa.

“Her? She’s dead!” said the king.

“Oh,” said Santa Claus. The next morning when the king went in to see what Santa Claus wanted for breakfast, he wasn’t there. But there was a note attached to the post. It said: Dear Mr. Vox Poxie, I have left. But I’ll be back for Christmas. Santa Claus.

The king gasped. Christmas? What was Christmas? He did not know it, but that very day was Christmas Eve.

When he got up the next day, there was gray snow on the ground. No Santa, no presents. The next day and the next day, no Christmas. No Santa. No toys.

On the third day, he awoke in the night to sleigh bells. Was it? Could it be?

Yes it was. It was Santa Claus!

Quickly, the king hopped back into bed, and the next morning everything was green! The houses were new! The people were happy! Everybody was playing with toys! Even though Christmas was late, it was a nice one! And everybody lived happily ever after!

September 12, 2012

A family of readers

Congratulations to Lori Lambright, of Centerville, Indiana, who won a signed copy of Becoming Clementine and a gift card to the International Spy Museum Spy Store! Although I’ve never had the chance to meet Lori, the town she lives in happens to be just down the road from Richmond, Indiana, where I grew up.

Here’s what Lori had to say about reading: “We are a family of Readers! However, my daughter Emma said she had lost interest in reading so I told her that once you hit on an author you Really like then that will change! She began reading my daughter Kara’s copy of Velva Jean Learns to Drive and she couldn’t put it down! She raced through that and then onto Velva Jean Learns to Fly as I started the first book. We are Hooked! So fun to share this love of your writing with each other!”

Happy reading (and spying), Lori (and Kara and Emma, too)!

Another giveaway will be posted tomorrow, so check back here soon…

January 6, 2012

Behind the Book — Taking a Creative Day

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , , — jennifer @ 11:25 am

When I was in high school in Indiana, my best friend Joe Kraemer and I would sometimes take what we called a “Creative Day,” which meant that we skipped school so we could work on outside projects– namely our writing and having fun. While our parents weren’t all too thrilled about this (when they found out), we were actually doing something very wise and necessary to the writing process: When you work hard and all the time, it’s important every now and then to clear your mind and recharge your creative batteries. (Not that, of course, we condone missing school.)

Sometimes, depending on the deadline, you can only afford to take a Creative Hour or a Creative Minute, but my mother taught me long ago that so much of writing– and so much of life– is about balance. How can you hope to be a good, well rounded writer (or a good, well rounded person) without it? In other words, as much as I love working– and I do– and as much as I need to work, work, work to meet all my deadlines, sometimes you have to get away from your desk.

After high school, Joe and I went our separate ways geographically, but now we’re back in the same city, which means we try to schedule regular time for Creative Days. It’s rare that either of us can take an entire day off, but yesterday, as our New Year’s gift to each other, we did. In the morning we met at Runyon Canyon for a hike. I pretended this was research for the Velva Jean Hollywood book since Errol Flynn once rented the mansion that used to sit at the top of the Canyon, looking out over the city. The ghost of that mansion is still there– overgrown tennis courts, the cracked foundation of a swimming pool, the crumbled ruins of a fountain. But in reality, we were out enjoying the sunshine and the heat (85 degrees by 10:00 am), the people watching and the exercise and, of course, the view.

Afterward, we drove to our favorite L.A. movie theater, the Arclight Hollywood, to see a double feature, which is something we like to do every couple of weeks. We LOVE the movies, and will go see almost anything as long as it involves popcorn (and, if possible, cute male actors). The downside of this is that we tend to see a lot of bad movies.

Before our first film, we ate lunch at the Arclight Cafe and talked business. Since high school, Joe and I have written together, and two years ago we wrote a TV show version of my high school memoir, The Aqua Net Diaries, for Warner Bros. We have other projects we’re working on now, and we’d agreed ahead of time that we would save the business discussion for lunchtime, while we ate healthy salads and drank water with lemon and generally acted like responsible adults. This part of the day lasted exactly 43 minutes.

Then it was off to the concession counter and our first movie: The Artist, my favorite movie of 2011. To me, the film conjures up the best of Chaplin– it is lyrical and poetic and moving and funny and warmhearted and tragic and deep and original. This was my second time seeing it, and I still swooned, still cried, still laughed, and still walked away with that rare feeling I get from a movie– that I’d just read a really satisfying, engrossing, beautifully written book.

Then we were off to the concession line again and the second movie: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which afterward we dubbed Snoozer, Sleeper, Snorer, Nap because, except for the fifteen minutes Tom Hardy was on the screen, it was, we thought, utterly joyless and plodding and muddled and dull. As Joe said, “The filmmakers did manage to achieve one thing– they made spies seem completely uninteresting.”

But even a bad movie can be a good and welcome break from the work, as well as a helpful study in how not to write. And though it would have been nice to have spent our $14.00 (each) on a better film, the day left us feeling completely recharged.

When I got home last night, I felt excited about working today. By letting my brain wander away from Velva Jean for a little while, it has come back to her with newfound energy and inspiration. And some newfound clarity. This week I’d been wrestling with some tricky plot-related questions, but taking a step back from my desk (and the book) suddenly helped me see things more clearly. Which only proves my point: you can’t be a hard-working, intensely-driven obsessive writer all the time. Sometimes you just have to know when to walk away and spend time with your best friend eating popcorn and talking about boys.