Imagination Making a Picture Come True…

For some of us, stories start with a picture.  I remember having an image in my mind of a group of people camped by a great river, in the shadow of a ruined city.  They were waiting for ships to arrive with supplies.  The reason for their presence there, and the mystery behind the ruined city, are the puzzle-pieces that grew into the first volume of my series, The Memphis Cycle.   

Another story began with a man standing on a hillside overlooking Paris.  A battle is being fought, though the sporadic firing below him shows that the fighting is paused for the  night.  The man looks up through the drifting skeins of smoke, up toward the stars that mirror the lights of the city below him.  In that moment he falls in love – and my stories set in Paris grew from that image.

I design my own covers, so I know how it is to have an image in my mind that expresses the story, and the sort of struggle that comes when I try to capture that image and that story.  Sometimes I succeed.

But what sort of image do you get when your read a description of a story?  If, say, you read this passage:

Valentine’s Day means one thing at Stanton Middle School: students will send each other chocolate roses. Each year, Mia Hartley watches while the same group of students gets roses and everyone else is left out. This year, she decides things will be different. As the student assigned to write names on the cards, Mia purchases 25 roses and writes her own cards, designating them to 25 people she’s personally chosen. But she soon learns that playing matchmaker is much more complicated than she thought it would be.

Is it possible to compose an image that is as whimsical, amusing, charming and (I suspect) touching as this story promises to be?

I think it is  quite possible, and I think you may agree.  This week, you see, Stephanie Faris, the author of 30 Days of No Gossip, has revealed the cover of her new book, due out next year. 
Click  Cover Reveal and see what you think…

…And prepare to be amused,  to smile and, maybe, be charmed.  (I suspect the book will be even better…)

Here’s her website, too…

Humorous Poetry

I have posted poetry from time to time.   Today, I am posting three of my favorite humorous poems.  We can all use a chuckle, I’m sure.  Especially remembering twelve years ago today.

I recite this one regularly, sometimes even in company.  Some of us may remember memorizing poetry for school. The nuns in the school I attended in 8th grade – I was 13 years old – had us memorize poems.  This was not one of them, but thanks to our reading I can identify eight poems whose fragments appear in Robert’s recital. 

They don’t teach elocution any more, but you must imagine someone speaking these lines with extravagant, stylized gestures to show anger, courage, grief, hope, yearning…


“An Overworked Elocutionist.”

Elocution guide

Once there was a little boy whose name was Robert Reese,
And every Friday afternoon he had to speak a piece.
So many poems thus he learned, that soon he had a store
Of recitations in his head and still kept learning more.

And so this is what happened! He was called upon one week,
And totally forgot the piece he was about to speak.
His brain he cudgeled, not a word remained within his head
And so he spoke at random, and this is what he said!

My beautiful, my beautiful, who standeth proudly by…
It was the schooner Hesperus and the breaking waves dashed high?
Why is this forum crowded? What means this stir in Rome?
Under the spreading chestnut tree, there is no place like home.

When freedom from her mountain heights cried “Twinkle little star!
Shoot if you must this old gray head, King Henry of Navarre!
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue-chasmed crag at Drachenfels –
My name is Norwald – On the Grampian hills Ring out Wild Bells!”

If you’re waking call me early.  To be or not to be?
The curfew shall not ring tonight! O woodman spare that tree!
Charge Chester, Charge!  On Stanley, On! And let who will be clever.
The boy stood on the burning deck, but I go on forever!

His elocution was superb, his voice and gestures fine;
His schoolmates all applauded as he finished the last line.
“I see it doesn’t matter,” Robert thought, “what words I say,
So long as I declaim with oratorical display.” 

          by Carolyn Wells 

This gem is said to have been written during pioneer days, perhaps because it referred to preserved (dried) fruit.  Until the advent of refrigeration, many things were preserved in such a way, and that method was not limited to those crossing the Great American Plains in covered wagons.  In any event, it’s a favorite of mine. 

Dried Apple Pies


I loathe, abhor, detest, despise

Abominate dried apple pies!
I like good food, I like good meat –
Or anything that’s fit to eat! –
But of all poor grub beneath the skies,
The poorest is Dried Apple Pies! 

The farmer takes his gnarliest fruit –
T’is wormy, bitter and hard to boot –
He leaves the hulls to make us cough
And don’t take half the peeling off.
Then on a dirty string t’is strung
And in a garret window hung,
Where it serves as roost for flies
Until it’s made up into pies. 

So tread on my corns or tell me lies –
But don’t pass me dried apple pies!



…and then we have Hotspur’s comment (addressed to Owen Glendower in Shakespeare’s Henry IV) on the subject of poetry.  In this speech he is responding to Glendower’s remark that he had set many an English ballad to harp music, a talent that no one had accused Hotspur of having. 

Hotspur replies:

And I am glad of it with all my heart:
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers;
I had rather hear a brazen canstick turn’d,

Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree;
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,

Nothing so much as mincing poetry:
‘Tis like the forced gait of a shuffling nag.



I hope some of you have enjoyed a chuckle.  I’m going back to jotting notes in notebooks…

Writing Limericks

It’s amazing what pops into your head.   For some reason I’ve been thinking about Limericks. 
What’s a Limerick?  Well, it’s like this:   




A humorous, frequently bawdy, verse of three long and two short lines rhyming aabba, popularized by Edward Lear.

 I have run into some that aren’t bawdy (most of mine) but the form does lend itself to a certain level of – shall I say? – friskiness.

I had quite a run of limericks for a while.  A number of us cranked them out.  They are rather like knee-jerks.  With the right stimulus, you can put them out quickly.  As an example, a perfectly charming lady named Pat, who was a senior administrator one place I worked, was quite taken by Sunsweet Brand Prunes (they did start calling them ‘dried plums’ some time later) had several small bags of the things.  And I wrote this to commemorate her adventuresome nature: 

Has someone suggested Prunes?
A collection of large, juicy prunes
Was assembled by Pat one fine June.
But she went overboard
And devoured the hoard –
So I don’t think we’ll hear from her soon!


 I seem to remember that Pat was slightly amused, but it was long ago and far away.

We were off to the races with the limericks.  I’ve forgotten most of them (“Good!” my family might say) but a few came back, and I am happy to share:

On myself (NOT biographical):

A hazel-eyed cookie named Wilder
Met a plausible scamp who begilder.
He was nabbed by a Copper
For Conduct Improper –
And posting his bail really rilder

Then, laughing at Elizabeth and Richard Taylor’s flatulent endeavor that barged down the Nile and sank, I came out with these:

Egyptian Queen Cleo saw Caesar –
His face and form didn’t displaesar.
She had her slaves lug
Her, rolled up in a rug,
To seduce that unfortunate gaesar.

And, finally, this:

Queen Cleo laid hold of an asp
Whose sour disposition did rasp.
Her ending was bad,
So remember, my lad –
Never fool with a Snake in the Grasp.

You can breathe now – I don’t recall any more.

At this moment.