Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday Morning Nostalgia: The Smurfs

The Smurfs have a special place in my heart. But I'm not sure why.

At first glance, the Smurfs seems like a totalitarian society. We have a bearded leader
in a red hat who leads a communist society of shirtless followers. (Karl Marx, anyone?)
Perhaps worst of all, there is only one female in their community. (And she was created
by the evil Gargamel as a trap to lure male Smurfs to their doom.)

There must be some logical reason I loved the Smurfs, right? Let me try to map it out...

Reason #1) I Was a Kid and It Was a Cartoon

I was an animation junkie. I still love cartoons today -- but I prefer watching quality
cartoons. When I was ages zero through twelve, quality did not matter. If it was animated,
I was hooked. I even watched Davey and Goliath, for crying out loud. So, yeah, one reason
why I watched the Smurfs was because it was a cartoon and it was on TV on Saturday

But there were other cartoons on other channels. So why did I watch the Smurfs?

Reason #2) I Can Relate to Clumsy Smurf

Anybody who has spent time with me will soon discover that I'm rather clumsy. I'm not
sure how many times I have dropped books or papers from my desk. I don't know how
many times I've accidentally given my wife a flat top while carelessly walking behind her.
It's actually amazing that I haven't cracked this iPad which I am now writing upon.
I was especially accident prone when I was a kid, so yeah, I definitely related to this guy.

More than our common bond of the Dropsies, I also connected with Clumsy because
throughout grade school I always had friends who were (at least in my opinion) much
smarter than I was. Clumsy always tagged along with Brainy. And Brainy sometimes
went out of his way to make Clumsy feel lesser-than. I don't know that my friends ever
did that intentionally -- but sometimes I felt that way Clumsy felt. The nice thing about
this Smurf, though, is that he has good intentions and a good heart -- so even if he
trips and falls and causes some disaster in the Smurf village, his goodness
always prevails in the end.

Reason #3) Kid Friendly World Building

Smurfs, for me, really started with the merchandise. Before ever seeing the Hannah Barbara
program, I remember being a kid and walking into a little European themed shop in
Leavenworth, Washington and discovering hundreds of these funny little blue figurines.

They had a Smurf for every activity. Baking, snorkeling, trumpet playing, bowling...
I bought my grandparents a Golfer Smurf.

Peyo and his team of artists definitely had a clever marketing strategy: invent a Smurf
for every personality, every interest. And when you take all of these different personalities
and abilities and stick them together in a mushroom village, you are going
to create an interesting world -- one that will spark a child's imagination.

I was so heavily influenced by the Smurf's that I copied Peyo's strategy and made up my own
cartoon characters: The Snorts. They were a lot like the Smurfs, but they were more like
lizard-humanoids who lived in your garden.

As I got older, even today as a writer, I became fascinated with the idea of telling ensemble
stories about a community. If I wasn't so hooked on watching the Smurf's every Saturday
morning, I'm not sure I would have ever come up with the expansive world I built for my
graphic novel Duck Town.

Reason #4) Kid Friendly Profanity

I know what you're thinking... WHAT THE SMURF ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Well, that's precisely my point. The dialogue of the Smurfs included a lot of the word SMURF
in it. And it turns out, sometimes when they said the word SMURF, those Smurfs were angry.

On more than one occasion Papa Smurf would tell Brain to "SMURF UP!"

I loved these exchanges. I loved how the word SMURF could be a verb or a noun or
an adjective (if you added a Y). It became a very useful word for a kid like me who
avoided the F-word and any other expletives. If I stubbed my toe, I would cry OH SMURF IT YOU MOTHERSMURFER... and that way I could have a vocal outlet
without breaking the house rules regardingcurse words.

What About You?

Did you ever watch this show? Did you have any nostalgic connections to it?

If so...

Which Smurf are you?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Lucky Chapter Thirteen

Thirteen has always been a lucky number for me. My eldest daughter was born on Friday the 13th. That also happens to be my parents wedding date, way back when. And of course, the title of my upcoming book from Candlewick is There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor.

So, it should surprise me that this kids' book that I've been working on has concluded on the thirteenth chapter. The writing process was quick and joyful -- thise two things are rare qualities when it comes to my method (which usually involves self-hatred and head-to-desk assaults).

Hopefully the revision will go just as smoothly, and that ediotrs will immediately fall in love with it, and it will be on bookshelves by 2019. Hmm... Could I be so lucky?

Fingers crossed!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Reaching Chapter Five

I don't always complete the projects I begin. As I have blogged about before, I have about a 50/50 track record. If I started writing something it's a coin toss as to whether or not I'll get to The End.

However, if I can finish Chapter Five that usually means I will finish the book.

Five days ago I started a little chapter book that will probably be about 15,000 words when it is complete... and today I finished Chapter Five. I have my fingers crossed that this means it will be complete. And if I can keep up the pace of writing one chapter a day, I should be able to get to the end in seven more days!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Daily Three

I've had four productive days in a row. That's a nice change of pace, because it's been a while since I've worked (creatively) that many days in a row. Hopefully, the trend will continue.

One of the reasons I've been able to get into the groove of things is simple: I finally picked a specific project to work on. Sometimes, at the beginning of a new phase, I spend too much time fretting iver what to work on next. A play? A picture book revision? A novel?

In this case, I zeroed in on the chapter book medium... this one is about a group of friends whonhappen to be bugs. (We'll call it my Bug Book, for now.)

The other reason things are going well: I have simplified my priorities so that I wake up and I am concerned with accomplishing three tasks.

1) Exercise (Feeling fit helps you feel creative.)

2) Write at least 1500 words

3) Complete my wife's Honey-Do List (this varies in size and complexity from day-to-day, but usually doesn't take too long).

If I can finish the first two items on the list, then I can fulfill whatever family / household responsibilities that need to be done... And without me mentally whining to myself that I'm not being productive.

Once those three things are done, I have the day to myself. I can read Stephen King. i can watch Netflix. I can hang out with friends. OrIf I'm smart, I'll work ahead on my book!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Creativity VS. Marketing -- Help!

Sorry, little blog... I've been neglecting you.

The funny thing is, I've been journaling so much, it doesn't seem like I've been errant in my blog posts. I've written a diary entry for ever day of the summer so far. I've just been keeping it to myself, locked away on my first generation iPad.

I've also been having way too much fun on Instagram. Far more fun than a grown man should be allowed to experience. If you'd like to follow the poorly photographed merriment, here's the link (I think):

Anyway, the summer has been great fun so far. The trip to Boston / New York / Washington D.C. was fantastic. One of the highlights happened at the beginning of the trip. I met my editors at Charlesbridge and Candlewick. Imagine you are a Disneyland fanatic and you are invited to go behind the scenes and meet the Imagineers at their workspace -- that was what it was like for me. I was full on geeking out at all he KidLit illustrations on the walls.

Now, I'm back in California, and it;s time to get back to work... which always leads to the question: Do I work on creating new stuff or selling existing stuff?

Usually what happens is that I try to spend to coming up with marketing ideas, and after I fail at that, I fall back into my comfort zone and get to work on a new project. That's fine, but the thing is... I've got these new books that I want people to read...

For example: THERE'S A DINOSAUR ON THE 13th FLOOR is available for pre-order!!!

But other than bothering my family and friends on Facebook, I haven't discovered a very active, productive way to generate word of mouth.

Any marketing ideas? I'm open to suggestions. Ir do you think I should not worry about selling myself and just hunker down and get to work on my next project?