Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Stab at Writing for Kids

Below is the beginning of my almost attempt at writing for the 8-12 crowd. Too bad I don't remember where I was headed with this, because I think it's a good beginning. *shrug* Every single thing we write is a learning experience. Good thing I learned to put more of a plot down for the stories I start.

Summer Vacation Story
Julia couldn’t believe her ears. Her whole summer vacation was ruined! The entire class went from raucous enthusiasm over the last day of school to stunned silence. Mrs. Fitzhugh was still talking but few of the students were actually listening.

“… due the first day of school next year. Since I’ve been reassigned to teach sixth grade, it will be no problem to pick up where we’ve left off. Provided, of course, that you keep your minds sharp during summer break. That is the point of the assignment I’ve decided to give you for summer homework – keeping your minds active while you’re out of school.”

“Active?!” Julia thought, “My mind is active during the summer. I have a whole list of things I was going to do this summer. Homework was NOT one of those things.”

Mrs. Fitzhugh started passing out piles of paperwork. Each of her fifth grade students grudgingly took one from the top and passed the rest back to the unhappy individual behind him. As she was handing out papers, she continued, “Now I’m sure you all have plans for the summer,” almost reading Julia’s mind, “so this is going to incorporate your summer plans with your summer homework.”

Julia looked down at the sheet in her hands. The words were all a blur swimming in her thoughts of the beach and the park and the library. “Ahhh, the library,” Julia sighed under her breath, “Maybe the assignment has something to do with researching things in the library. I hope it’s not one of those lame ‘How I spent my summer vacation’ sort of things.” Julia focused her eyes and read, “How I spent my summer vacation” in big, bold, underlined letters at the top of the assignment. Groaning, she laid her head on her arms in defeat. The teacher was still talking but Julia no longer cared to listen. Minutes later she was roused by the sounds of her classmates pushing their chairs into place and gathering up their belongings. The last day of school was over.

Julia sullenly followed her classmates out of the school and toward the buses. Everyone was abuzz with excitement, but Julia was too lost in thought to even notice. She was sorely disappointed in her teacher. All year long she had given such interesting and thoughtful assignments. This was totally uncalled for. Every year some teacher or other had given Julia the exact same assignment and it had the exact same results – utter boredom. Julia thought Mrs. Fitzhugh was different.

Amy, Julia’s best friend rushed over and tapped her on the shoulder. “Ohmagawd, this is so exciting!” She gushed. Amy had a way of gushing when she was excited, but Julia didn’t mind because most of the time Amy was pretty sedate and thoughtful. “Can you believe that we get this to do all summer? I’m so glad we’re getting Fitz again.” All the children referred to their teacher as Fitz in conversation – it was shorter and Mrs. Fitzhugh didn’t mind as long as they addressed her properly at any other time.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Julia. “I can’t believe that we have homework to do this summer. Well, I’m telling you, I’m going to whip out something quick and get it over with so that I can enjoy my break.” Pulling her backpack farther up on her shoulder, Julia started to walk for home. “I’ll catch you later. I’m going to get started on this thing right away.”

Amy stood watching in disbelief. This wasn’t like Julia. Usually things like this got Julia more excited than even Amy could manage. Maybe Julia was having an off day or maybe she was grumpy because Amy would be leaving that night to spend the summer at her aunt’s house in the country. “Oh well,” thought Amy, “I’ll write her a letter once I get unpacked and maybe she’ll let me know what’s wrong when she writes back.”

Of course, Julia had forgotten that Amy was going away for the summer. Julia’s mind was on other things and she was feeling quite sorry for herself by the time she arrived home. She could hear whistling in the kitchen which told her that her father was home, but Julia didn’t feel like conversation so she tromped right upstairs and flopped herself down on the bed. Her mind was racing with thoughts of her summer plans and with how she was going to word her 3 or 4 paragraph essay summarizing those plans. She could do the essay now and then she would just do what her essay said she had done. A little backward, true, but the best plan that Julia could come up with. Julia was an excellent writer and it would take her no time at all to make up details of she was going to do. All that it took was putting it into past tense. Since it was what she was going to do anyway, it wasn’t really a fib.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Movie Review

Way back when I was gainfully employed, I was asked to do some articles for the company newsletter. (Co-editor number one asked me, but number two and I didn't get along, so nothing was ever published.) A couple of the articles I wrote were reviews of old movies I thought my fellow employees might enjoy. Since they will never read these, I thought I would share one with you.

In the words of Rocky Squirrel: "And now for something we hope you'll really like."


Silverado (1985)

Kevin Kline, Kevin Costner, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Brian Dennehy, Linda Hunt, Rosanna Arquette, John Cleese, Jeff Goldblum

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan

Before Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer could clean up Tombstone (1993) and before Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster could gamble on Maverick (1994), a band of men rode onto the streets of Silverado and into the ranks of classic movies. This disparate quartet of cowboys – and virtually unknown actors at that time – showed America that the classic western was not dead and that Hollywood could still make a movie that was both entertaining and thoughtful.

The year is 1880 and the opening scenes follow Emmett (played by Scott Glenn) as he heads west to “meet a guy and go to Silverado”. On his way, Emmett stumbles upon Paden (Kline) in the desert and agrees to help him get to a town. However, they make it to town only to find that the ‘guy’ Emmett is supposed to meet is not only going to hang for murder the next morning, but also that the man is Emmett’s little brother, Jake (Costner). With some timely assistance from a stranger (Glover), the four men are rapidly on their way to their destination. That is when the fun really begins.

When these unlikely looking heroes ride in, Silverado seems like any other peaceful western town – plenty of pretty girls, horses and saloons – and it is peaceful, too, as long as the townspeople ignore the corruption going on around them. No such luck for them, though, as the heroes get embroiled in fighting for their lives, their property and their integrity.

Silverado is a movie with big vistas, big stars and big guns, but it goes beyond all that with big ideas – the big ideas that made the old westerns such an important part of America. Silverado shows that the only way for evil men to succeed is for good men to sit and do nothing. It also shows what happens when good men decide to stand for what is right – no evil is powerful enough to stop them.