Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SCBWI New York and Trivia Tuesday

This past weekend was the "Lucky 13th" Annual SCBWI New York Winter Conference, so my questions for Trivia Tuesday, all have to do with Kidlit! And just for the fun of it, I will remove my "No Googling"rule today. Tomorrow I'll post the answers, with links!

1. Who is the awesome author/SCBWI Team Blogger/cupcake aficionado on the right?

2. Identify the author of the upcoming, One For the Murphys.

3. Name the Texas Sweetheart on the left
(there was a hidden clue in there!).

4. Name the illustrator/painter in this amazing retro photo:

And finally, not really a trivia question, but more of a polling question...This last photo is of a gentleman who sets up shop around the corner from my daughter's apartment. Who thinks we should get him to do, at the very least, a break-out session at the next conference?

And last, but not least, the answers to last week's trivia questions:

1. What was the name of Erica Kane's high school sweetheart on All My Children? Phil Brent.

2. Name the host of Hollywood Squares. Peter Marshall

3. How many choices were behind the wall on The Dating Game? 3

4. What was the name of the Brady Bunch's dog? Tiger

5. Who were the only two members of the Partridge Family who actually sang? Shirley Jones (Mom Partridge) and David Cassidy. The rest were pretty much Milli Vanilli.

Bonus: On what day was Jennifer Tompkins born? Sunday

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Airplane Compliments: I'll Take 'Em Where I Can Get 'Em

"Wow!" said BadBreathBusinessManNextToMeOnAirplane. "I've never seen anyone do a crossword that fast in my life! We haven't even taken off and you're almost finished!"

I nodded, trying to convey an expression of both humble thanks and uppity wisdom, quickly trying to cover up any part of the page that might say "People Magazine" on it.

That's right. I can finish the People Crossword puzzle in about seven minutes or less --even if there's an unknown rapper as the double-big-money word. (Five minutes, if the d-b-m is an aging soap star, game show host, or cheesy singer from the seventies or eighties.)

My brother, Tim, has this skill, too. We got it from our mother, a charter subscriber to People. She would punish us mercilessly if we did the crossword before her--extra tongue lashings if we did it in pen AND got the word wrong.

Anyway ... I digress. This is Trivia Tuesday, and my questions today have double (possibly, triple) value to you, the answerer. Not only will you have the possible satisfaction of getting these correct, you may also be able to use these in a future People crossword --or even a USA Today crossword.

Remember the NO-GOOGLING rule.

1. What was the name of Erica Kane's high school sweetheart on All My Children?

2. Name the host of Hollywood Squares.

3. How many choices were behind the wall on The Dating Game?

4. What was the name of the Brady Bunch's dog?

5. Who were the only two members of the Partridge Family who actually sang?

Bonus: On what day was Jennifer Tompkins born?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Medal Monday

My friend, illustrator and storyteller extraordinaire, Mary Jo Scott, had no idea at the time, but she was handing me a National Book Award winner, and a Newbery Honor book. I'll read anything MJ recommends, so when she showed me INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai last summer, I went home and devoured it in one sitting.

The story and the writing are beautiful and poignant, but Thanhha Lai went so much further with her story. She pulled off what only the best of storytellers are able to do and made me (a middle-class, American-raised, mostly caucasian girl) identify with her main character, a Vietnamese refugee.

Maybe "identify" isn't really the best choice of words. The author made me remember my friend from high school, also a Vietnamese refugee. People treated her as if she was stupid and as if she didn't exist, because of her broken English and her second-hand clothing. But she ended up in my Physics class as my lab partner. I was working my tail off, trying to figure out the lab, and I so ignorantly discounted everything my lab partner was trying to contribute. She must have been getting frustrated, because I couldn't understand what she was trying to say. But she remained patient and polite.

It turned out that I was going about things completely wrong. Thank goodness I finally let her help me, because she truly saved us from failing the lab assignment. I can vividly remember our eyes meeting during that moment of realization! We couldn't stop laughing and we became friends after that. I still have the doll she gave me from Vietnam.

Oh, and it turned out she had lived in a French-speaking country briefly, after she fled Vietnam. So she was translating everything from Vietnamese --into French --and then into English.

Thanhha Lai: Congratulations on your well-deserved awards. And thank you for reminding us to read the beautifully written pages, and not just glance quickly at the cover.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fiction Friday and ... Bewitched Trivia Revealed!

First, the answers!

1. Where did Darrin and Samantha Stevens live? (1 point each for city and state; 5 bonus points for actual street address!)

Darrin and Samantha lived at 1164 Morning Glory Circle, in Westport, Connecticut.

2. What was Darrin Stevens' job?

Darrin (both Darrin #1 and Darrin #2!) worked in advertising. (By the way, did Darrin #2 really think that Samantha wouldn't notice that he and #1 had done a switcheroo on her?)

3. Name Darrin's place of employment. (Bonus point for city and state!)

Darrin worked in Manhattan for McMann and Tate.

4. What Hollywood Squares comedian played one of Samantha's relatives?

Paul Lynde played Samantha's Uncle Arthur.

5. What was forbidden in the Stevens household?

Witchcraft/magic, of all things (!), was forbidden in the Stevens household.

The best thing about putting these trivia questions out there, is that I often end up getting more facts to tuck away in those corners of my brain that should actually be housing more important things. Anyway--got a great add-on to this week's questions from my friend, School Psychologist Extraordinaire, Kristina. Kristina is from none other than the real Westport, CT, and actually lived by the actor who played Darrin's mother on the show. How cool is that? The closest I ever got to a Stevens was through the screen of my TV in my living room in Auburn, Washington.

Now, for you writers out there, on to the Fiction Friday part ...

Over the years, I've often gotten so devoted to my favorite TV characters, that I have wished, like Kristina, that I could go over to their house and hang out and play with their dogs--really get to know them.

It needs to be the same with my characters. I'm at the point in my WIP where I need to get to know them better. I need to sit down with them like they are my best friends (or my worst enemies!). If I sat down and watched TV with them, what would they laugh at? What would make them cry? What books would be on their bookshelves? What kind of snacks would they go get from the kitchen? Who would they pick for president? Board games or video games? Kickball or Dungeons and Dragons?

If I get to know my characters well enough, their stories will tell themselves.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trivia Tuesday!

I had so much fun with last week's questions, I decided to crank out a few more!

A little something for everyone today ... I've decided to do a Bewitched theme this time. It doesn't matter if you caught it first run during prime time, or if you tuned in to Nick at Nite.

But remember ... keep those googling thumbs free! And for those of you hard-core googlers with voice recognition: we will be having none of that. You must search the recesses of your technology-atrophied minds!

1. Where did Darrin and Samantha Stevens live? (1 point each for city and state; 5 bonus points for actual street address!)

2. What was Darrin Stevens' job?

3. Name Darrin's place of employment. (Bonus point for city and state!)

4. What Hollywood Squares comedian played one of Samantha's relatives?

5. What was forbidden in the Stevens household?

Stop by tomorrow for the answers!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Both of us. The same.

We were twins. I knew she had noticed it, too, because she hugged her knees and smiled at me from across the floor.

Both of us. The same. White knee socks with red argyle diamonds. I loved those socks. My mom had bought them for my first day of kindergarten, and it was my first time wearing them.

Her name was Verna, and we knew we were best friends right from that first day at Pioneer Elementary. We sat next to each other any chance we could, and we scooted our rugs together at rest time. I remember she smelled like a combination of my backyard and our laundry basket. When we put our arms side by side, we smiled at how much tanner she was than me.

I was a walker, and an entire group of neighbor kids would make our way home together after morning kindergarten, people peeling off the group, one by one, on the way home. But on that first day of school my mom and my brother, Tim, came with the car to pick me up.

"That's my best friend!" I was so excited to spot Verna, walking all by herself, sticking close to the curb like her mother must have taught her.

She was walking in the opposite direction from my path home, and my mom pulled the station wagon over to offer her a ride.

Tim and I slid over to give her room and I can vividly remember her sitting forward on her seat, telling my mom how to get to her house.

My mom must have been surprised at how far Verna would have had to walk. Her house was all the way under the highway, and when we pulled up to let her out, I could see why her mom couldn't come to pick her up. Her car was in the middle of the front yard and it didn't have all of the wheels on it.

I was so excited to wear those socks again, and I couldn't wait for my mom to wash them. Verna wore hers again right away the very next day. And the next one after that. Finally, mine were ready to wear again, but this time I remember that Verna's looked dirtier than mine. I told my mom this when I got home, and she said that Verna's mom probably didn't have a washing machine. Not everyone on the reservation had running water.

I remember wanting my mom to wash those socks for her in our machine. But something kept me from offering. Even in kindergarten, Verna had a quiet pride about her.

We used to trade sweaters sometimes on the playground. Hers was thicker, and it had better cushioning when we wrapped them around the bottom rungs of the money bars, each throwing one diamond-socked leg over, and hooking our arms in place to twirl.

I wish I still had those argyle socks -- and a friend like Verna.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Secret Confession

I have a secret confession to make. I love Batman. I always have.

I'm not talking about a secret crush on Adam West or Val Kilmer, or even my old E.R. heartthrob, George Clooney.

I'm talking about the comics and the TV show with the caped crusader, the Batmobile, Gotham City, and of course ... the Bat Cave. Oh how I longed to be a fly on the wall of Wayne Manor.

The show started on this day in 1966, and TV has never been the same for me. Never since have my brother, Tim, and I gone to the lengths we went to for any other TV show. We risked life, limb and reputation for our love of that show.

Even though Batman was my favorite, my brother and I were equal opportunity superheroes, and we also gave Superman and Batgirl some air time in the back yard and in the vacant lot next door.
I think I still have shoulder scars from the safety pins that held my cape. My mother was constantly missing her best towels and scarves. There are probably still bits of gravel in my knees from jumping off the backyard fence and the picnic table with my cape.

I'm pretty sure that Super 8 footage still exists of some of my brother's flying leaps. We used to beg my dad to run the projector backwards, and there's nothing like a dive from the top of the swing set in slo-mo.

I loved the power and freedom that I felt when I got a good sprint going and my cape snapped in the wind behind me. And I'd still take Batman's utility belt over my cell phone any day.

Now I need to go do some yoga stretches or something. I've got to stop jumping into my Honda like it's the Batmobile. But I'll be back tomorrow. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Answers for Trivia Tuesday!

I have to say that the answers people gave to the Trivia Questions were probably better than the actual answers--definitely more entertaining! Thank you for playing! I am already hard at work coming up with next week's questions.

Here are the answers:

1. When is David Cassidy's birthday?

April 12

2. Name two possible desserts in a Swanson's TV dinner from the sixties and/or seventies.

Brownie, apple crisp, apple cake cobbler, and I think there was one with cherry cobbler--yum!

3. What was the first of the Nancy Drew books?


4. From where did Kurt Cobain hail?

Aberdeen, Washington (Same as my dad!)

5. (Bonus): What was the first line of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.?

"Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Secret Talent

It's true. I have a secret talent. It runs in my family, and it's ... a flair for useless trivia.

I can't remember fifty percent of my shopping list, nor do I remember my kids' names on a consistent basis. But I can remember exactly what was in a Swanson's fried chicken TV dinner, circa 1969.

I've had this ever since I could remember. I could be tearing my hair out, trying to remember an algebraic formula, while quite easily pulling David Cassidy's birthday out of the card catalog of my mind.

It's not a particularly useful trait to have ... unless I happen to get a hankering to overthrow Alex Trebek.

So in honor of my useless talent, I am making this Trivia Tuesday. There are no prizes, other than the distinct satisfaction or discovery that you may also have this admirable hidden talent.

Here goes ... oh wait--no using The Google or other such cheater pants methods. Your answers have to be pulled out of the deep twists and turns of your own brain. You can put your answers in the comment section--but no reading the answers of others before you reply!

1. When is David Cassidy's birthday? (You didn't think I was going to leave that one out, did you?)

2. Name two possible desserts in a Swanson's TV dinner from the sixties and/or seventies.

3. What was the first of the Nancy Drew books?

4. From where did Kurt Cobain hail?

5. (Bonus): What was the first line of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.?

And: Get your mouse off the Google button, Cheater McCheatsley. (You know who you are!) I'll post the answers tomorrow.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Didn't Really See That ... Did I??

I didn't really see that ... did I??

It was around 10:30 this morning, and Daughter #2 and I were on our way to church. We were on the freeway when a car came up next to us in the left lane. He was staying right with us, side by side, and he almost seemed too close--as if he was in my personal space. I don't know why, but that's always a little unnerving to me, like when someone steps up too close to you in the grocery store check-out line.

Then I caught something else out of the corner of my eye--a brown bottle that he kept tipping up to his mouth. Was that a beer that he was drinking for breakfast?

Daughter #2 leaned forward to look around me and nodded her head emphatically. "Yep, it looks like it." She whipped out her ever-present cell phone. "Want me to call 9-1-1?"

I've always taught my first graders and my own kids not to tattle. I don't want to hear about it unless someone's bleeding or in danger, I always say.

I also like to give someone the benefit of the doubt. "Maybe it's just a soda that looks like beer," I said.

Daughter #2 nodded, but skeptically this time. "Like a root beer."

"Uh oh." I hung back and let him get ahead of me. "Is he weaving?"

Daughter #2, ever the voice of reason, followed the car with her eyes as it went slowly side to side, from the shoulder and back to the center line. "Looks like it."

As soon as she tapped in the numbers on her phone, I felt a sense of relief.

"Making that call could have saved someone's life, I told her."

Sure, maybe we got a perfectly innocent Sunday morning root beer drinker pulled over, and at the very most, cost him ten minutes of his day. But I was at peace with my tattling.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Where Was She Going?

New Year's Day was packed at the soup kitchen. Not one table was empty. Every time I looked up from the tray of Sloppy Joes in the steam table, the line seemed to get longer. It was cold outside, and a couple of my friends were giving out winter gloves.

I barely had time to pause, and I had to remind myself to make eye contact. My friend, Phyllis, a Dominican Sister, once told me something that is so important relating to human worth and dignity. Many people out on their own, homeless or transient, haven't heard their own name in a long time. I didn't have time to use names or to even stop the line to chat, but I could definitely exchange greetings and make eye contact.

I had stepped back to let someone refill my Sloppy Joes when I saw them. A mother and a father and a little boy of about two. They were dragging over the high chair and the little boy's smile was as wide as his face. He was thrilled to be there. I ran to fill his sippy cup with some milk, wondering how long it had been since he'd had some. Milk is expensive.

One of the people who helps run the soup kitchen was watching from off to the side of the room. Watching with an accusing eye, to make sure I wasn't giving them something extra. Which made me want to give them all the more. We're not supposed to give out any containers, in case someone wants to take something "to go". But it's not my fault if I happen to drop a sheet of foil as I'm passing a table. I can sort of understand the supervisor's jadedness. He's been burned by the desperate few who are looking to take advantage to get ahead. But today I wasn't playing by his rules. Our church had purchased, prepared and served the food, and if I wanted to give out ten Sloppy Joes per customer, I was going to do it.

There is almost always someone out of the crowd who makes me stop short. This time it was a young woman. It looked as if she had arrived alone, and she stood about a half a step back from the silverware and green plastic trays at the beginning of the line. It wasn't so easy to make eye contact with her, because her eyes were veiled with the hazy cloud of her addiction. My husband asked her how many Sloppy Joes she wanted and she took so long to answer, he had to ask again. Her hair was dirty and her hands were shaking as she took her plate.

I couldn't stop thinking about her. Did she have anyone who cared where she slept, and how had her life gotten to where it was?

I looked for her later, but couldn't spot her in the crowded, noisy room. She was still on my mind as I cleaned up and rounded up my family, driving home in my warm car.