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I recently discovered a little gem of a book, a 1967 Reader’s Digest “New Family Quiz Book” with illustrations by Quentin Blake (mysteriously uncredited, but undoubtedly his).

The book is full of brain teasers and word puzzles, but there’s also a section that tests your creativity.

Jot down your answers to the following questions–your choice of responses shows your creativity. I’ll be back in a few days with the answers!

Object: Which responses do you feel apply to you?

1. Would you rather be considered:
a. practical ?
b. ingenious ?

2. Does following a schedule:
a. appeal to you ?
b. cramp you ?

3. Do you often get behind in your work?
a. Yes
b. No

4. Do hunches come to you just before you go to sleep?
a. Yes
b. No

5. Do you often fret about daily chores?
a. Yes
b. No

6. Do you like to introduce the speaker at a meeting?
a. Yes
b. No

7. Do you sometimes feel anxious about the success of your efforts?
a. Yes
b. No

8. Do you like work in which you must influence others?
a. Yes
b. No

9. Are you fundamentally contented?
a. Yes
b. No

10. Do you spend many evenings with friends?
a. Yes
b. No

11. Do you frequently day-dream?
a. Yes
b. No

12. Do you remember the names of people you meet?
a. Yes
b. No

Photo credit DOCUMERICA by Patricia D. Duncan

Something strange happens to women once they reach 50, and I’m not talking about hot flashes and sagging skin. I am referring to those female family members who have an overabundance of stuff and feel the sudden need to unload it on me.

I do not need wooden napkin rings circa 1974 nor a pilly afghan in the trendy avocado green of that decade. A framed print seems like a generous offering, until I learn that it sits beneath cracked glass. Sweaters and velvet jackets thick with dust and the odor of mothballs? No thanks. Old dented tins, used shopping bags, vinyl placemats, and assorted ceramic chachkas—does my home look like a flea market?

I have relatives who want to get rid of things. I understand that. But they assume the items are too good to throw away. Yet I suspect they also realize their knick-knacks aren’t desirable enough to sell, not even to the eBay-obsessed, so I’m the solution to their clutter.

So what do I do? Refuse the third PBS tote bag I’ve been offered?

No, I graciously accept it with a “thank you” and watch their eyes light up with pleasure, knowing their treasure has found another home within the family. And then I tuck it away into a dark basement closet, awaiting my 50th birthday when I can hopefully dump the stuff on my nieces.

But a few months ago for Picture Book Idea Month, Susan Taylor Brown told us how she finds inspiration: collecting “junk” in an idea box, and then imagining the story behind the brooch, feather or piece of iridescent ribbon she’s found.

So perhaps collecting chachkas isn’t such a bad experience for a writer. In fact, maybe I’ll start asking neighbors to unload their trash–I mean treasure–on me.

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My Picture Books


illus by Mike Boldt
July 2021

illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown

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