Sunday, June 28, 2009

Writing for Kids

Years ago I wrote a series of children's stories. I wrote them for storytelling and reading together with children. By today's readability tests, on each paragraph, the story parts are for about the 5th grade. The narrator parts are about grade level 10-11. They include little sections to stimulate conversation and exploration of the happenings in the stories. At the time I was doing parties for a small school class of very bright kids, so I became for a while a scarecrow who couldn't scare crows. Instead “Friend Lee Scarecrow” became a “traveling teller of tales.” Hey, the kids liked it and the teachers liked it.

These are stories with morals and hopefully educational in other ways too. When I sent them, with illustrations, to a few publishers, I got a couple of handwritten rejection notices. I have since read that receiving a handwritten rejection was pretty good.

I was also told, remember this was years ago, that they were too moralistic.

So maybe the time has come to try again. How does one go about getting published these days? Now there are so many new ways. E-publishing, web-zines, self-publishing are a few of the new ways.

Since our society is not reading “Hard Copies” or real books, I am trying to educate myself about these newer ways.

Then I wonder why I still want to try it at all. I went back over the stories and they are pretty good but I don't think I can rely on myself for a fair critic. So I include here an introduction to the series: Seasonal Tales for Telling and Sharing and chapter one of Snow in Summer. Let me know what you think. I will take suggestions too on getting them published if you have any.


Hello everybody. My name is Friend Lee Scarecrow.

I am a teller of tales.

There are good reasons I choose to tell tales instead of silently standing in the garden all day. I tried to scare the crows away, I really did. I just wasn't any good at it. When a scarecrow is not good at scaring crows, there are more problems than just the loss of part of the garden. Can you think of some?

There is a good thing about not being a good scarecrow too. I get company stopping by.

The crows actually use me as a place to perch, which is how birds rest, while they look for the best corn or other seeds to snatch and enjoy. The first time the crows came they were cautious and for some time they were quiet. Then they started. The arguing and the yammering would make your head hurt. It did mine.

These crows argued over everything. They tormented each other over things like one being bigger than another. The quarrels might be about being too old, or about being too young. They might just be bored so they would start something. By now you get the picture, don't you?

After some thought, and trying to reason with my visitors, I found that telling them tales would settle them down and I enjoyed it too. So now when not required in the garden, I, Friend Lee Scarecrow, am a traveling teller of tales.

Glad to Meet You!

Excerpt from Snow in Summer

Imagination (pictures in your mind of what is not actually around you) is a very useful tool. I am not a hot weather person so I look out the window on a hot, bright, summer day and imagine winter. Maybe this is a strange way for a scarecrow to feel about the growing season but there it is.

Before I imagine winter everything is beautiful and green, but too hot for me. Don't you think it would be a great imagining to combine the seasons of summer and winter. Since I'm only picturing hearing, smelling, and touching in my mind; it won't upset the summer-lovers or nature.

What if (powerful words, "what if") someone imagined so hard that the two seasons actually did get together? Here is a tale about some things I thought might happen.

One hot July day Ricky sat looking out his window. The hayfield, even after the first cutting of a few weeks ago, was tall and green. The woods on the other side of the house were green. The trees there were mostly mixed deciduous and evergreen. Because of the mixture of trees and other summer plants, Ricky saw yellow-greens, blue greens and lots of in-between greens.

In the flower garden, Ricky could see yellows, oranges, and some whites. Even though the flowers were a welcome break from all the greens, they made him itchy and hot. (No, Ricky wasn't allergic.) He remembered the chiggers and the scratchy stems from the times he helped cut flowers for the table in the front hall. That was almost as itchy as pickin' green beans and corn. (His mom always let him help her "put-by", freeze and can, for winter.)

Ricky thought how strange his feelings were about the heat of the sun. In the winter, he loved the warmth of the sun as he used his sled on the snowy hillside. Yet in the summer, he wished for a little less warmth from that white-hot circle in the sky.

Ricky smiled and thought a lacy snow just on the cedar at the edge of the yard. The mother cardinal dropped her seed in mid-air and flew straight back to her nest. She tried to cover her too-large fledglings. All the while she was calling angrily. Ricky thought she looked pretty silly. Her babies were almost as big as she. Heads and beaks, feathers, legs and tails, stuck out from under her.

The boy now turned his attention to the hayfield. Suppose the itchy biting insects in the hayfield had to leave. He dropped a light blanket of snow over them. Ricky hadn't realized how many critters lived in that hayfield. The grasshoppers came hopping out. The caterpillars inched out. The beetles came flying out. There were young rabbits, mice, quail, and doves hopping, crawling,and flying out too. The large farm black snake slithered out, not paying a bit of attention to what would normally be his dinner.

When Ricky was called to dinner he lost his snowy pictures, but the next hot afternoon he made it snow in spots. Ricky had fun snowing small circles here and there. Ricky did not know it but a little bug was sitting in the corner of his room. The little bug watched with interest as Ricky made his snow spots. After a while Ricky got a little bored and went to find something else to do. As soon he turned from the window, the spots quickly melted. The little bug crawled out a small hole in the window screen.

(end of chapter one)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More on Mulberries and Worms

What a dirty trick. Or was it?

In doing further research on mulberries I found an interesting note. (see yahoo link below) It claimed that what my dad did with the cup of cold water was something done to keep kids from eating the fruit to be used for the household. Well, that wasn't this case. I don't remember my mother making mulberry jam or cobblers. But my dad could do some pretty interesting things in the name of humor or teaching lessons. (Like the time he "let" me try to ride our nanny goat.)
The note further claimed that those weren't really worms. They were left-over parts of the flower. There is a good picture of the female flower on the wikipedia site.
According to what I could find, worms that hang out specifically on mulberry trees are silkworms and that is only on the white mulberry tree. They eat the leaves.
There are other larvae that use the mulberry tree as a food source but not maybe not as we were led to believe.
The "worms" I remember were not brown and there was wriggling. So I still am not so certain.
What do you think-worms or not?

See: or

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mulberries, Big Sisters, and Lessons Learned

Help! Something is wrong with my mulberries. No, not birds eating them all. Not this year anyway.

I went out today to gather some mulberries for a cobbler. I brought them in and promptly placed them in a bowl of cold water. I quickly called my sister to tell her my mulberries are broken...

Now why would I call long distance to tell her such a thing? Ah, a short story to tell.

When we were kids we ate green apples off a tree. We ate plums off a tree. And...we often reached up and took a few mulberries off a tree and ate them. Once when my dad was home, he drove a truck at that time so he was gone quite a bit and for long periods of time we kids had eaten some mulberries off the tree. We then went out into the open part of the yard to play. Dad went inside the house and came back out with a cup of water whereupon he called us over to the tree.

He said he wanted to show us something about mulberries. He pulled a few off the tree and dropped them into the cup of water and lowered it for us to see. I don't know about the others but what I saw was cool, as we used to say. These little green worms came boiling out of those mulberries. I mean lots of them. They looked an awful lot like the little green stems of the fruit. I thought that was fascinating. But we were discouraged somewhat from eating mulberries straight off the tree at least for a while. One of us apparently were more discouraged than others. That must have been around 58 years ago and yet there is more to this story. Just yesterday I learned something else about that lesson.

My older sister cannot bring herself to eat mulberries at all since that day. I was shocked when she told me. She is not usually one to be affected in that way. We discussed it further. I explained to her that if you just soak them you will get most of the worms out. Most of them. Nope, she knows it but she was having none of it. But,But...I explained to her that the berries would be cooked. Nope, doesn't matter she is just not going there. We discussed how many of the cereals and grains we eat are full of eggs of bugs and “millers” as I call them. She is not one to be overly sensitive by any means. She is not a cleanliness freak. Yes, she knows all these things but it doesn't matter she just can't eat mulberries since that day all those years ago.

All I can figure is she must have been in one of the many wonderful stages of childhood where you can have fears you never had before-like I did once about trains near our house. Those trains had been running near-by all along but one night that sound I had loved so, and do again, scared me. For some period of time I can't remember, I was afraid, only at night though. I can't remember all the childhood phases like this for kids but I know there are a lot. For instance the “fear of strangers” phase in babies. All of a sudden that baby that smiles at everyone and lets most anyone hold him/her will one day decide that that cousin or aunt or whomever, is a really strange monster to be feared. It is like someone flipped a switch. Then there is the fear of not breathing, especially at night. You must stay awake to be sure you breathe. Or the fear of starvation if you don't have access to food through the night, or maybe it is water so you don't die of thirst....

But my “big” sister?? Never. She was never a fearful person. She, the caretaker, afraid? The person who gave me her clothes? My protector? It CANNOT be. NO! What will happen to the world? Maybe someone else's big sister but never, no way, no how, not mine!

Yep. Big sisters, and maybe big brothers, can and do have fears. They may be tough. They may be the one who will stand up for you or punch someone for pickin' on you but shock of shock... Big Sister's have fears and they really can be “grossed out”, even if they don't let, sometimes daren't, let anybody know.

So the reason I called mulberries had no worms.

Well, the mulberries were good, and the cobbler was good, and I am so very sorry for my big sister that she was in a “gross-out” phase when we got to see all those “Billions” of worms come out of those few berries in that cup of water. Lesson more than learned.

Happy Birthday Big Sister.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Health Care Plans

Health Care Plan, Health Care Reform, articles abound this week.
Reading the articles, the editorials, and the comments of the readers is a feat in itself.
This is really a topic of interest to a lot of people. Many doctors write articles, editorials, and comments. Many politicians have much to say. The President is on the trail, holding town hall meetings. So you know I couldn't resist my two cents. Below is a comment I sent to the NY Times.
I support Health Care for America Now

I guess I am just stupid or naive.
Why are the costs for health care so high in the first place? I doubt it is all about technology. Why are we, the government, going through this insurance mess in the first place? Why not just get drug companies to get realistic, get hospitals to look at their vendors and their yen for profit, get doctors to set their charges realistically. Why not get the patients to be responsible.
We all know those with insurance pay for those without in many ways. We all know about really “frivolous lawsuits”. We all know drug manufacturers are charging US consumers much too much. (no it is not their research costs-it is their advertising costs) We all know the population is not healthy and expects a drug or a procedure to instantly fix our bad habits. We all know that many if not most hospitals have brought in business managers to get profits up. We all know the problems with population demographics changing-more retired than workers.
I am for health care for all but why are we so worried about insurance companies. They have been around for as long as I can remember and they will probably not disappear. They will find a way.
I worked for a hospital years ago as a secretary. I remember my shock at what a little restaurant packet of ketchup cost then. We have all read or heard tales of the cost of a band aid in a hospital. We all are aware of errors in diagnosis or treatment do happen leaving some with a lifetime of pain or suffering or the inability to earn a living. Even worse we all are aware of , God forbid, deaths from these mistakes.
I see what insurance companies do “for me” when they negotiate for a visit to my doctor. My doctor in essence gives the insurance company a loan for months sometimes while they wait on payment. My doctor charges more because he knows that he will get less. The insurance company negotiates so that my deductible is rarely met. The drug plan is another tale. They send me letters to encourage me to take an “opportunity” to save money. They negotiate with the drug manufacturers to get the best price for the plan sponsor and themselves. Fine. But they turn down my doctors prescriptions because I didn't take advantage of the “opportunity”. So my choice is take the drug they want me to take or go pay 3 to 4 times as much.
I think this is all craziness. Capitalism at its best?
I don't mind businesses making a profit. I don't mind health care professionals making money. However, isn't this just about the same as the “Wall Street” greed we are seeing lately? Shouldn't we all; corporate America, doctor, hospital, drug supplier, drug manufacturers, and yes, the public change our ways and our expectations?

Posted as comment on NYTimes.

There is a big long on-going story behind my comments but it would be too long to post here.
PS After rereading the comment to the Times, I realized the whole thing relates to the April 25th blog post.