Monday, January 30, 2017

Midsummer Night's Musical

Here are some images from last year's production of my one and only published musical: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" -- a musical adaptation with apologies to Shakespeare. 


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Monsters are Interesting

Whenever I see someone getting a manicure, I instantly think of this scene from one of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Happy Saturday!

Photograph Friday #2: Sunbathing Turtles

Well, it's that time of the year again. I have received the first batch of essays for spring semester. I'm trying to grade at least ten essays a day. Most teachers would probably do that in less than an hour. But I'm a slow reader in comparison to most professors. This photograph matches the pace of my reading level...

This is my first attempt at taking a "cool" photo with the camera on my iPhone (which I have adopted from my wife). There's a koi pond at our local mall, and these turtles are either enjoying the afternoon sunbathing, or they are desperately trying (and failing) to escape. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thankful Thursdays: Moorpark College Students

Well, I have received my first batch of essays to grade, so we'll soon see if I'll be able to balance my duties as a professor and still find time to pursue creative projects.

But I do want to express my gratitude towards my students -- all the students that have graced my classroom during my 15 years on campus (if you count my adjunct years, which I certainly do). In particular, I am grateful for the current group of students I have. Teaching Creative Writing has been an incredible experience so far, but I am also very impressed with what I've been reading from my English 1A students. I've read about ten narrative essays so far, and I'm so thankful that they are already taking risks and putting themselves into their writing.

But I'm also pleasantly surprised by my Eng 1B students. Often times, the students in this class (which analyzes literature) remain quiet and just expect me to lecture. Yet many of the students this semester seem eager to ask questions and dig into the text.

Now, I better knock on wood to make sure that I haven't jinxed the rest of my semester.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Word-Count Wednesdays

Well, I gave myself a very light goal: write a mere 1000 words every week. Yesterday I thought I accomplished that task... but once I checked the word count I discovered that there's only 503 words so far!

This means I'll be writing throughout the evening to make my deadline.

What am I working on?
It's a new book about 13 year old cousins who live on a run-down golf course in Eastern Washington... a setting near and dear to my heart. It's middle grade, funny yet heart-warming... and there is a bit of fantasy mixed in. Right now, I'm calling it Juniper in July, but that might change.

Total Word Count: 503 words (ugh!)

Word Count Update: 1,054 (woo-hoo!)

How do I feel about the process?
So far, so good... just very brief. I sketched a map of the setting, and that inspired me to think of the various neighbor characters and golf course landmarks that might come into play. So far my written content is all backstory about the setting. (It may or may not make it into the final draft.)

What am I reading now?

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

The Breathing Method by Stephen King


David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

(and lots of cool blogs by my Creative Writing students)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Musical Mondays! (Assignment #2: Write a Song)

We had an awesome day in Creative Writing. (At least I did. Hopefully my students enjoyed their time as well.)

Several of the students shared their song lyrics, and one student even brought a guitar. (She rocked!) Another student sent me a link to his soundcloud account, so I was able to listen to two of his songs. (Goof lyrics -- good instrumentation too.) And yet another student collaborated with her boyfriend to record her song in all its glory.

We've got a lot of talented artists in this classroom. I have a feeling the ones that shared today have inspired some of the students who aren't as musically inclined, so I am hoping that we'll hear more song material in the near future.

I highly encourage students to connect with each other throughout the course of the semester. When artists collaborate beautiful works of art can be created. Here's a brief example of one of my favorite collaborations:

If you decided to create song lyrics for Experiment #2, feel free to use the comment section to discuss your experience, share your favorite lyrics, or leave links to websites and Youtube videos that provided assistance and inspiration.

Guide to Poetic Devices

Greetings students (and anyone interested in creative writing),

I just wanted to deliver this quick blog post so that I can include a useful link I discovered today.

I was on the lookout for a handy guide to poetic terms and devices, and it turns out the Chaparral Poets have provide this concise, informative handout in PDF form.

Here's the link:

I suggest printing it up, studying it, try out some of the forms mentioned. If you feel good about something you create (whether it's poetry or prose), share it on your blog and tell the rest of the class about it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday Cartoon: Spongebob and Patrick and Seaweed Mustaches

Whoa, did you see that last post I just did with all those statistics? It's almost like I've become an actual adult. Now I just need a seaweed-stache and I can sing along with the rest of these men.

Keeping Track of the National Report Card

I am going to use this information as a Score Card to try to understand where we are as a nation and to serve as a benchmark to help evaluate the new administration.

Every year that goes by, I just might send a Report Card to the White House.

United States Population: 

318.9 Million (2016)

National Debt: 

$13.62 trillion (January 2016)


Life Expectancy: 78.74 years (2012)

Percentage of Americans without Health Insurance: 11.0% (2016)

Cancer Deaths: 564,800 (2015)

Heart Disease Deaths: 610,000 (2015)

Auto Accident Deaths: 32,000 (2013)

Reported legal abortions: 664,435 (2013)

Number of births: 3,988,076 (2014)

Number of Americans with Alzheimer's: 5.4 Million

Employment and Economics:

Unemployment rate: 4.9% (August 2016)

Median household income: $55,775

Average Price of a Home: $188,900

Average Gas Price: 2.32 per gallon (Jan 2017)

Percent of people who fell below the poverty line—$24,250 for a family of four: 13.5%
(43.1 Million people.)

Percent of upper middle-class citizens -- making between $100,000 and $350,000 a year: 29.4%

Number of U.S. millionaires: 10.4 Million 

Number of U.S. billionaires: 540

Number of people who used homeless shelters: 1.49 million (2014)

Number of people sleeping on the streets: 578,424 (2014)

Average Tax Rate: 21%

Dow Jones: 18,161.19 (Oct 30th, 2016) 

Military during Obama's Administration: 

End of 2016: There are currently 5,000 troops in Iraq and 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. 

2,499 military personnel lost their lives during Obama's Administration.

Approximately 30,000 terrorists (jihadist militants) were killed during Obama's Administration.

117 civilians were killed by drone strikes.

Crime and Punishment:  

There were 15,696 murders in the USA during 2015. 

There were an estimated 90,185 rapes in 2015. 

There were 327,374 robberies in 2015.

Property crimes resulted in losses estimated at $14.3 billion in 2015. 

963 people were killed by Police Officers in 2016.

140 Officers died in the line of duty in 2016. (63 died from gunfire.) 

Current prison population: Federal Prisons: 211,000  /  State Prisons: 1,351,000

There were 28 executions in 2015 and 20 executions in 2016. 

Marriage and Divorce: 

Number of marriages: 2,140, 272 (49 reporting States and D.C) (2014)

Marriage rate: 6.9 per 1,000 total population (49 reporting States and D.C) (2014)

Divorce rate: 3.2 per 1,000 population (45 reporting States and D.C.) (2014)


Legal Immigrant Population: 42.4 Million

Unauthorized Immigrant Population: 10.9 Million

Deportations during the Obama Administration: 2 million


High School Graduation Rate: 82.3% (2014)

Average yearly cost for state college: $9,650 (2016)

Average yearly cost for private college: $33,480 (2016)

2010 US Worldwide School Ranking for USA: 14th in Reading / 25th in Math / 17th in Science

2015 Worldwide School Ranking for USA:  29th in Math and Science

Number students earning associate and bachelor’s degrees: 2,804,133 (2015)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Writing Experiment #1: Write a Picture Book

All righty, we've had three creative writing classes and so far many of us have conducted Experiment #1 -- which is to try to write a picture book.

First, I walked the students through my Tips on Writing Picture Books...

Second, I suggested that they follow certain guidelines so that their story will fit into a 31-32 page book. (They don't need to do any illustrations... but they should make the text illustrator-friendly.)

Third, I mentioned that picture books are usually for children, but that there are some hilarious picture books just for grown-ups. 

And finally, I told them to have fun.

Some of the students' Writing Experiments have been posted on their blogs. Here are some of the ones that I have discovered. Check them out and leave these folks an encouraging comment!

"The Dog Who Pooped Like a Cat" -- How can you resist a title like that?

"Where Are My Toys?" offers a very imaginative explanation as to where our favorite items disappear to... (The answer might have something to do with small purple elephants.)

"Penelope Jones - On The Case" -- a lively main character who solves mysteries around the house. But my favorite part is that she has a turtle named lightning.

"Deep Within the Forest" is beautiful and hypnotic... I could see this being developed into a lovely book to read at bedtime.

If you have a blog that features a picture book text that you'd like to share, leave a link in the comments section.

* * *

What's Next???

Writing Experiment #2: Write an original song... OR.... a parody of an existing song. (Get in touch with your inner Weird Al.)

Photo Friday

Playing with the camera on this strange newfangled gadget.

My wife should have never given me her iPhone.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Days of Camp Bradford

Before my wife and I had kids, we had nieces and nephews. Sometimes during the summer, they would visit us for a week or two. Cheri and I were in our 20s, and so these visits from these little relatives provided a glimpse into a future family life.

In some ways, they were our practice children. Sort of like in Home Economics when they give you a bag of flour to take care of...

Fortunately, the human kids were more durable.

Because of these visits, Cheri and I got to test the waters of parenthood before we decided to take the plunge into pregnancy. (I apologize for those cheesy metaphors, but I am trying to teach my creative writing students that blogs don't need to be perfect.)

Camp Bradford became the nickname for our house during the summer. And Cheri embraced that title by making every day filled with a series of wonderful misadventures.

Megan and Matthew were the first dynamic niece/nephew duo to experience Camp Bradford... followed by our Canadian God-Son Corey (but Corey's exploits will be saved for another blog).

Lucky for us, and our eventual offspring, Megan and Matthew were very friendly, well-behaved youngsters. Life was easy-going whenever these "little angels" joined Camp Bradford. When I was in my early 20s, I didn't think I wanted to be a father. It seemed too serious. Too monumental. Too much of a milestone of my mortality. Yet Megan and Matthew made parenting seem like fun... which meant deep down they were devious little devils because it wasn't long after the first Camp Bradford summer when I finally told Cheri, "Sure, honey, let's have a baby. It'll be a piece o' cake."

I've been exhausted ever since.

I was reminiscing about the days of Camp Bradford, and decided to look for some photographic evidence of the events... but there weren't as many pictures as I had hoped. Still, I did find some highlights which give a hint at just how much fun it was to show these young Washingtonians the joys of southern California.

They were obsessed with swimming pools. They wanted to stay in the water 24/7. Cheri and I didn't have a pool, but our friends in Orange County did, which meant that these kids expected us to drive beyond the Orange Curtain every day. Matthew loved to dive for quarters and Megan loved to splash me in the face and call me Dopey. (That was our thing.) One time, when we were in the car and Matthew kept asking "are we there yet" every three minutes, I said, "You know Matt, there's no water in this pool we're going too."

"There's not?"

"Nope. There was a big crack at the bottom and the water drained to the center of the earth."

"How did it get cracked, Uncle Wade?"

"We're not sure, but it may have been one of your quarters when it sank to the bottom."

It's hard to tell in this photograph, but my good friend John and Nephew Matthew are playing with Star Wars figures. John -- and many of my fellow arch-geeks -- still loved to buy action figures, but did we grown men ever hang around the apartment battling them against each other. No way! (No matter how much we secretly wanted to...)

But then I realized, if you have a kid visiting you, you can full-on play with your toys the same way you did when you were 8 years old, and people say, "Aw... you're so good with kids." When really, it's just an excuse to reconnect with G.I. Joe and Cobra Commander. 

Visiting our relatives at the zoo. 

The Obligatory Pilgrimage to the Giant Rat of Anaheim. 

You pay your own way when you stay at Camp Bradford. These kids shoveled coal into a steam locomotive 14 hours a day. 

And then they slept in a cave, without blankets! At least that's how I remember it... I could be wrong. They seem happy, though, right? These were good days. 

Nowadays, Matthew has been traveling the world. He's grown into a man, but I still recognize that little boy. Can you tell which one he is? 

Megan is in her late 20s... and she's been known to go misadventuring with my daughters from time to time. Here she is (the one with the pink strap), on a volcano island with her fiance, her sister, and her cousins... probably trying to lead my girls near the lava as payback for Camp Bradford. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Word-Count Wednesdays

So, with this new schedule, I'm going to use Wednesdays to post updates about my writing progress. Here goes:

This week, I revised a picture book three times, and in the process my agent went from "I really like this" to "I love this!" So, that's on the right track.

My goal for next Wednesday... +1000 words of new material.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Theme Days for My Social Media

Inspired by my recent blog post about the Mickey Mouse Club, I've decided to incorporate themes for each day of the week. Cuz, you know... for fun!

Musical / Monologue Mondays -- A day to celebrate theatrical monologues, scenes, and musical numbers.

Teacher Tuesday -- This is when I'll post educational stuff as well as my reflections about my experiences during the semester.

Word-Count Wednesday -- During the middle of the week I will touch base with my progress as an author. I'm aiming for at least 1000 words per week (which is very low, by the way -- but I'll take things up to 4000 words per day during the summer). Word-Count Wednesdays will keep me accountable and help me maintain my creative goals.

Thankful Thursdsay -- Can you tell I love alliteration? This day will focus on gratitude. Be on the look-out for feel-good posts about admirable people who have influenced me in positive ways.


Thursday Movie Question -- This is something I've been doing on my Facebook page since 2012 or so. It started out as trivia (which now seems points in the Age of Google) and became a forum for my online friends to share opinions about film.

Photography Friday -- One of my New Year's Resolution is to take more pictures... So far I really suck at taking photos... But if I keep it up I might advance to mediocre.

Saturday Morning Cartoons -- This is where I plan to get nostalgic about the pop-culture world of Children's television programming. They say write what you know, and sadly since my ten-year-old self I rotted my brain with countless hours of cartoons, this seems like something I know how to write about. (Or, I might just decide to post YouTube videos of my favorite Bugs Bunny shorts.)

Sunday Funnies -- My favorite part of the Sunday newspaper has always been the funny papers. I'm trying to channel my inner-Charles Schulz with my ongoing comic strip: Duck Town. 

This might be overly ambitious. It's not easy for me to blog everyday, and if I get really involved in writing a new novel or play, I might throw this list out the window. But for now this looks like a fun way to kick-off a creative 2017.

What are you blogging about?

Sunday Funnies - Jan 15th, 2016

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mickey Mouse Club - Theme Days

As I gear up to begin marketing my upcoming children's book (Around the World in a Bathtub #shamelessplug), I have been going through my office, looking at old notes and journals.

I have noticed something that I've been doing since 2012. At the beginning of each year, I write a list of the days of the week, and give each day a special theme or topic. I never really do anything with that list... I just daydream about writing in my blog so much that I create different themes. The most I have ever done to fulfill this goal has been on Facebook. That's where I have been annoying / entertaining my online friends with "Thursday Movie Question" for the past five years. And I think I have always wanted to expand that list so that my social media presence has some sort of structure.

Why? Why would I want to have a post about "Teaching" every Tuesday? Why would I want to blog about "Musicals" on Monday? It finally dawned on me. It's because of the Mickey Mouse Club.

This old show (that was old even when I was a kid) entertained children five days a week, and each day of the week had its own theme.


Monday was "Fun with Music Day." I just watched this three minute video and I don't know how much fun it was for me...

It reminds me of a very boring version of the Hairspray kids (admittedly they were probably inspired by Mickey's minions as well as dance programs of the 50s and 60s).

It's also reminiscent of Disney's ride, It's a Small World... and that's always terrifying.


Tuesday was "Gues Star Day." You might call me fickle, but I rather like the production value of this musical routine... But here's the thing, I can't for the life of me remember who they had on as a special guest. I was five years old when I watched re-runs of this show, and there's a good chance that I switched channels in search for cartoons. Humans weren't my thing when I was five. It was cartoons, puppets, or nothing. So I probably watched this segment until they open the door, and when Donald Duck failed to appear I lost interest.

I did a quick Google Search, by the way, and found that some of the guests were familiar faces. But here are a few unfamiliar ones... (at least to me... I bet some of you can guess these stars of the 50s)

For comedians in the 1950s, the bigger the eyes the bigger the laughs. 


During the middle of the week, the Mickey Mouse Club decided that Wednesday was "Anything Can Happen Day" or as I like to call it: "No One Knows What the Hell's Going On Day." 


Nearly the end of the week is "Circus Day." You would think this theme would be lively enough to keep my attention...

...but I've always thought the circus was rather creepy. Hmmm... I wonder why. (I'm looking at you, Pink Elephants from Dumbo.)  


Of all the Theme Days I have revisited on Youtube today, the "Talent Round Up Day," with its Western dancing and makeshift horses, is hands down my favorite. 

Everything is all going hunky-dory until the eldest member of the Club, +50 year old Roy Williams shows up with guns a'blazing. 

I believe the Friday theme invited non-mouseketeer children onto the show, after winning the talent portion earlier in the week.  Unsurprisingly, most of these guest kids were white, just like the Mouseketeers. But I was pleased to discover a bit of diversity; according to the definitive website on all things Mickey Mouse Club, there were a few African-American children who performed on the show. (Again, it reminds me of Hairspray!) 

Anyway, this has been a long rambling blog post, but back to my original point -- I am thinking of adjusting my blog so that each day has it's own theme. I'll try to finalize my theme list tonight. 

In the words of Jimmie Dodd: "See you real soon!"


Friday, January 13, 2017

Picture Books for Grown-Ups

On Wednesday, I gave my creative writing students an overview of writing picture books for children. That's when a couple things dawned on me.

1) Many students may have absolutely no interest in writing a book for young children.


2) That's perfectly okay, because there are actually a few wildly successful picture books that are aimed at adults.

* * * 

The most notable one that I'm aware of is written by Adam Mansbach (author of some rather serious looking novels such as Rage is Back and Angry Black White Boy).

The book is called Go the F*** to Sleep. It's currently the #1 Parody book selling on Amazon, and I believe it's been in that spot for over five years now.

Keeping in mind there's profanity on every page, you might find this YouTube video amusing. It's narrated by the one and only Samuel L. Jackson...

Other successful picture books for grown-ups include: 


Jory John is one of the co-authors of both books, and it is interesting to note that after his success with these parodies he went on to write other books that are actually for children. 

So, grown-up picture books offer plenty of satire. Sometimes it's political... 

Sometimes it's catering to recent pop-culture trends, such as the zombie craze when Walking Dead was first popular. 

But there are many sophisticated picture books that are more sincere, and that aren't exactly written for adults or children, but for readers of any age. 

Take for example this beautifully illustrated biographic picture book about the life of John Lennon. 

First graders might enjoy reading about everyone's favorite bespectacled Beatle... but I have a feeling that this book targets readers my age, maybe even older (yes, I have a copy on this book). 

And although you could read this book to toddlers, it's really a metaphor about the history of religion and all of the conflicts created by the different interpretations of truth and/or god. (Unless I misread the text and it's just about a turtle and a meteorite that breaks apart in the earth's atmosphere.)

* * * 

Have you discovered a picture book that is marketed to adults? What did you think? Disturbing? Funny? Sophisticated? All of the above?  


Monday, January 9, 2017

Vision Boards and Life Goals

This winter break has been very fun and productive. But now it's time to get back to work. Spring semester begins today. This means that I'll soon be grading lots of essays, which means I'll have a lot less time to work on creative projects. 

As always, I'll still do my best to keep making books (as well as marketing the latest releases). I got a little lazy during the fall. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was very busy at Moorpark College. But as far as artistic output, there just wasn't much energy. I am going to do my best to stay focused. To that end, I spent a good many hours this weekend cleaning my office,

(I should probably explain that this is my version of clean.)

I also posted vision boards on my office door. These are illustrations of my aspirations, a wide assortment of things I'd like to accomplish before I get too old (or too dead). I have already accomplished more than a few. Those completed tasks have been inked and colored. The ones that are yet to be finished are merely penciled in blue, waiting to be completed. 

On the right, you'll see an illustration of my ideal bookshelf, both of books I would like to read as well as novels, plays, and comics I hope to someday write. On the right, notice the globe, there's an assortment of travel destinations I'd love to visit. The upper right is a cartoon version of a DVD library, with movies I'm proud to own. (Spielberg and Star Wars). There are blank spaces awaiting Episode VIII and XI, not to mention Indiana Jones 5. 

In this photo, aside from my sand castle shovel (a present from my girls), and the theater photos, as well as the moon landing, you'll notice there are some pages with a long list on each one. That's a list of names... names of friends, family, and acquaintances, all of whom I care about. I've made an Appreciation List, and throughout 2017, I plan to find ways to show my gratitude and admiration for each person on that list. 

I'll probably post better (closer) images of the vision board illustrations in another blog post, and -- at least for my own sake -- write about the goals more extensively. But for now, I just wanted to provide an overview and get 2017 moving in the right direction. 

Well, wish me luck. Tomorrow I begin teaching a Creative Writing class for the first time since becoming an English professor! 


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Take More Pictures

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to take more pictures. I am a rather lousy photographer, but that's okay. I'm planning to take more photographs simply because I realize how much they help us remember our past.

When the girls were little, my wife would always insist that we bring them to the photographers in the mall for just about every occasion: Christmas, Easter, Arbor Day, etc. At the time I thought it was excessive. "Why do you need so many pictures? Why can't we just remember these moments." Well, now that my eldest daughter is 18 I am so thankful for my wife's instinct... because there's a whole bunch of stuff I wouldn't remember without these visual triggers.

But in addition to remembering loved ones, I like the idea of remembering places. Especially places we used to call home.

This is a short video (and my first attempt at an animated gif) we took on Camano Island when it started to snow. I didn't grow up on Camano, but in the suburbs of Edmonds. Still, the combination of rain and snowflakes reminds me of my childhood.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Peace of Mind

I might have a problem... it seems I am only truly content when I'm working on a creative project. I get pretty grouchy with myself if I don't have something in the works. For example, yesterday I had an inkling of an idea for a new children's book, but there was no time to get started, no time to write. I felt irritable the whole day.

Today, I began writing the first 100 words, and even though I had stuff to do all afternoon (including sitting in the passenger seat while my eldest daughter practiced driving --eek!), I felt peaceful because I knew that I was in the middle of telling a story.

Tonight I've been able to spend the last three hours finishing the first draft, followed by tinkering and bits of revision here and there. Sometimes I wrote on my iPad sometimes I wrote in my fancy journal. I went back and forth, working digitally when the mood felt right, then working in pencil when I wanted to get unstuck.

I don't know what my agent will say about my latest manuscript, but right now I am enjoying the deep, calming sensation that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

I wish that for all of us. Wouldn't it be nice if 2017 felt like this the whole year through?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

In the Revision Cave (2017 Edition)

It was just 22 pages... why did it take all day to revise this stuff? I guess it was a RUFF-ROUGH draft.

But the good news is that those three chapters have been cleaned up nice and pretty and they've been sent through the interwebs to the inbox of my agent.

This current project, by the way, is intended to be a short middle grade novel (for 4th to 6th graders). The very funny premise was suggested by my agent, and I'm not sure if I am doing the project justice, so I'm very interested to see what Abigail thinks of it so far. If I receive her blessing and/or encouragement, I'll keep going...

Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Last Bit of Holiday

A good day with friends. We went to Orange County and exchanged gifts with the Eklunds and the Cunninghams. So, it felt the last bit of the holiday was concluded.

Right now, we're watching Sully -- a film about one man's dedication to his profession.

Afterwards, I'll be working in my office, brainstorming and developing new material.

I've got one week before the spring semester begins, so I am anxious to get something creative in the works before classes start.

Have a productive first week of 2017!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Word of the Year

For the last six years my wife has developed a tradition. On New Year's Day, she waits for a word to come to her, a word that will serve as the theme for the st of the year. She says she can't just pick the word, the word picks her. Past words have included:






These words give her a good sense of purpose and focus throughout the following 365 days, so I've decided to try it out myself.

A few days ago the word "persevere" popped into my head, so I thought that would be it. However, yesterday I realized that the word, which means to continue on despite adversity, was really ideal for this year that has just concluded: 2016.

So, today, another word has found me. My word for 2017 is "Listen."

Do you have a word of the year? Tell me about it. I'm all ears.