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You get a lot of spam, right? (Don’t worry, this isn’t spam.)

I do, too.

spam

But lately, the nature of the spam has changed. I’m receiving all kinds of press releases from companies who want to announce products on my blog. And, these folks have really done their homework! (No, they haven’t, just like my new middle-schooler. Sigh…a story for another time.)

They’d like me to blog about their moto-scooters, high-tech floss, fireplace pokers, vegan wallets (they’re no longer called “vinyl”), birdhouses and beanbags. You name it, they think you, my readers, would LOVE it! The mistake they make is not even reading my blog or relating their story to this blog’s readership. They’re all “thrilled to announce” their stuffy stuff but fail to convince me why *I* should be thrilled.

And then, I received an email from CuratedQuotes.com. They offered to design a quote image for my blog. Why, here’s something I would actually use! That my readers might actually want, too!

I spend a lot of time searching for re-usable images on which to overlay a quote.

Like this:

dahlquoteballons

And this:

roalddahlquotepibo

(Ugh, I’ve misplaced the image credits, which were all Creative Commons-ified.)

But here’s some folks that will do this for me. And make it look all cute and jazzy. So I said YES! And I sent them my very own quote!

picturebooksareimportant

Isn’t it wonderful? (I imagine that’s a little girl doing “the wave” with a wave.) Feel free to use the image quote yourself!

CuratedQuotes.com categorizes all these lovely quotes for us. They have a plethora of profound, beautiful quotes prêt-à-porter, for use in your social media communiques. (Those are such fancy-schmancy words! But when quotes look so fancy-schmancy, you need to keep up.) Here are 57 awesome quotes about creativity, like this one I picked just for you:

creativity-quotes-3

I’m so pleased CuratedQuotes.com contacted me.

They get us. They really get us.

And they will REALLY get you. They’re offering to make a custom image quote for one of my lucky blog readers! Just enter the quote you want to be picture-fied in the comments by October 1st. A random winner will then be selected. Good luck!

 

roalddahltwinkle

roalddahlfear

And that’s why we have PiBoIdMo!

You’re halfway through the month. How are you doing with the challenge? Check in by commenting below!

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*Background image credit: Leo Reynolds.

dahlquoteballons

When Tara launched this party, she quoted the fantastic Mr. Dahl:

And above all,
watch with glittering eyes


the whole world around you
because 
the greatest secrets
are always hidden

in the most unlikely places.
Those who don’t believe in magic

will never find it.

That’s just plain inspiring, no?

Well. Here’s my favorite sentence that man said, from THE BFG:

But let’s ignore that sage advice and gobblefunk a bit. That pretty much sums up what we do as writers anyway, right? Stir this, mix that, add in this word, trash those dumb ones, those unneccessary ones, those boring ones.

I’m always (always!) noodling around words in my brain. Odd I know, especially because my day job is all about pictures and graphics and effects. So at work recently, one dude asks the Boss Man, “Boss Man, what shot number is the one with the volcano?”

Too easy. I pipe up with, “Probably number e-LAVA-n.”

Maybe that was a bit of a groaner, or even a lot of a groaner if you have no funny bone. But since you are on the other side of the internet, and because I know we are all best friends, I have a feeling you laughed a little.

Did I write down “Punny Counting Book about Earth Science-y Things” in my PiBoIdMo notebook that day? Maybe.

(My honey’s fantasy football team is called the Favre Fig Newtons. Runs in the family.)

I figure if you look at the world like it’s one monster crossword puzzle, something unexpected is bound to tumble out.

Gobblefunked.

And why limit the gobblefunking to words? Why not gobblefunk with pictures?

I’m really no different than your average preschooler, because all day long I think about shapes and lines and color.

It’s when this:

Becomes this:

Which could easily become this:

OK, well maybe that’s boring unless you are in my line of work. But!

Couldn’t that same gobblefunking help us with ideas?

And since words are just pictures in different shapes, let’s do some of those, too.

This is the high school football stadium up the road from me. I am obsessed with their signage. It’s strong and pretty, and it sparkles on Friday nights. I can’t explain my love for this tiny part of my town, I’m just drawn to it. (I secretly think Tami Taylor is in those bleachers, which may explain part of the love.)

So, switch around some letters, fire up the gobblefunking, and the leftovers might just be a flash of an idea.

Gobblefunked.

Every day when I leave my house, these are the stepping stones I hop.

I hate them. They are awkwardly spaced, so in order to avoid the dewy grass I have to mosey with some serious cowboy swagger to land on each one. But remember that whole thing about being like a preschooler and thinking of shapes all day?

Maybe instead of stone circles they are actually…

Gobblefunked.

Or this:

All I see is a pet rock factory. Or a cement skyscraper. You?

This will be the only time I ask you to listen to me and not Roald Dahl. But go ahead and ignore that advice above, and get busy gobblefunking.

Carter Higgins is a motion graphics designer and a former elementary school librarian. She spends her days creating graphics, teaching, gobblefunking, and writing picture books. All of these interests combine in her blog at Design of the Picture Book, or you can find her on Twitter @CarterHiggins.

Carter is generously donating a picture book critique to PiBoIdMo. And you don’t have to wait until the end of the month to win it! Anyone can enter, right here, right now. Just leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected in one week. Good luck!

Time to grab your backpack, notebook and Dixon Ticonderoga #2’s—it’s back-to-school time! But hey, let’s make this year a little more interesting, shall we?

How about candy-coated pencils for sucking in class? YES!!! *fist pump* (Remember, I’m from Jersey.)

I don’t deserve credit here. Back in 1994, just a few years after Roald Dahl’s passing, his widow Liccy compiled truly inspired recipes for the book ROALD DAHL’S REVOLTING RECIPES, based on his darkly humorous children’s tales.

There’s George’s Marvelous Medicine Chicken Soup from GEORGE’S MARVELOUS MEDICINE, Mr. Twit’s Beard Food from THE TWITS, and Mosquitoes’ Toes and Wampfish Roes Most Delicately Fried from JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. And while these treats might not be on your next tea party list, there’s also sweet favorites like Bunce’s Donuts from FANTASTIC MR. FOX and Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake from MATILDA.

But considering the time of year, I thought it would be fun to share a recipe for making daydreaming in class a little sweeter.

CANDY-COATED PENCILS FOR SUCKING IN CLASS

Makes 6

You will need:

  • 6 pencils (Dahl’s favorite were Dixon Ticonderoga #2’s)
  • Play-Doh or other modeling clay (for standing pencils up)
  • candy thermometer (optional)
  • buttered 8X10 rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper
  • buttered knife
  • 1/2 pound sugar cubes
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP water
  • large pinch cream of tartar
  • few drops flavoring and food coloring
  1. Put sugar and water in saucepan over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Raise the heat. When syrup is almost boiling, add cream of tartar and a warmed candy thermometer.
  3. Boil without stirring to 250 degrees F, or until a little bit of the syrup dropped into cold water forms a hard ball (a ball that will hold its shape but still be pliable).
  4. Remove from heat, add flavoring and coloring. Do not over-stir and be careful, mixture is very hot.
  5. Pour mixture into rimmed, lined baking sheet. Edges will cool more quickly then the center, so as the mixture cools, turn the edges inward with a buttered knife, but do not stir.
  6. Working quickly, lay 2/3rds of a pencil (not the pointed end) on top of the mixture. Using the buttered knife, lift up the candy and gently wrap it around the pencil. You can create all sorts of shapes before it hardens. When the candy is almost set, stand the pencil point side down into the clay. Try not to touch the candy now, as you’ll leave fingerprints.
  7. Repeat step 6 with other pencils.

Note: Do not double the recipe to make more. Make additional batches instead.

That’s it! Now suck away in class, but don’t tell your teacher who gave you the recipe! I don’t want to get in trouble!

While ROALD DAHL’S REVOLTING RECIPES seems to be out of print, it has been resurrected several times. I suspect it will be released again. But if you just can’t wait to devour SNOZZCUMBERS or LICKABLE WALLPAPER, I suggest checking for a local indie seller.

Bon appetite!

STORYTELLER: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock cannot be missed, yet for two years I missed it. What is wrong with me? (Eh-hem, this is a rhetorical question, thankyouverymuch.)

Roald Dahl remains one of the most iconic children’s authors of all time, yet he began his career writing macabre short stories based upon his experience in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Just how did he evolve into the fantastical children’s author we all love?

Sheila St. Lawrence, Dahl’s literary agent at the Watkins Agency, is to thank. She realized “the ease in which Dahl could enter a child’s mind,” clearly apparent in his short story “The Wish”. In the tale, a young boy dares to walk across a carpet by stepping only on its yellow portions. Should his foot slip onto another color, he thought he would “disappear into a black void or be killed by venomous snakes.” This story was the only adult Dahl piece to feature a child protagonist to date, and it could not escape St. Lawrence’s attention.

After a disastrous two-year foray into playwriting, St. Lawrence implored Dahl to turn his literary aspirations elsewhere. Yet he ignored her kidlit suggestion, wrote stories that got turned down by The New Yorker, and instead got placed in the far less desirable (but still paying) Playboy.

Dahl’s publisher Alfred Knopf expressed interest in a children’s book, but then dropped a collection of adult stories called “Kiss Kiss” from Knopf’s 1959 list. Dahl spouted some choice words in response, threatening that Knopf would never squeeze a children’s book out of him.

Dahl once again became focused on writing for actors, as he wished to develop vehicles for his wife at the time, screen star Patricia Neal. After all, if Neal was working steadily, her income afforded him more time to write what he wanted to write. There were shows for Hitchcock and a drama series for TV based upon classic ghost stories, produced by Alfred Knopf’s half brother. But when the pilot episode encountered a controversy, the series got permanently shelved and Dahl was forced to return to the idea that evolved into JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.

I will say “and the rest is history” here, although STORYTELLER is only halfway through Dahl’s life story at this point. So like Sheila St. Lawrence, I implore you to turn your literary aspirations toward it.

But before I go, it would be a shame not to share with you Dahl’s advice to children’s writers, as told to Helen Edwards in an interview for Bedtime Stories exactly 42 years ago:

What makes a good children’s writer? The writer must have a genuine and powerful wish not only to entertain children, but to teach them the habit of reading…[He or she] must be a jokey sort of fellow…[and] must like simple tricks and jokes and riddles and other childish things. He must be unconventional and inventive. He must have a really first-class plot. He must know what enthralls children and what bores them. They love being spooked. They love ghosts. They love the finding of treasure. The love chocolates and toys and money. They love magic. They love being made to giggle. They love seeing the villain meet a grisly death. They love a hero and they love the hero to be a winner. But they hate descriptive passages and flowery prose. They hate long descriptions of any sort. Many of them are sensitive to good writing and can spot a clumsy sentence. They like stories that contain a threat. “D’you know what I feel like?” said the big crocodile to the smaller one. “I feel like having a nice plump juicy child for my lunch.” They love that sort of thing. What else do they love? New inventions. Unorthodox methods. Eccentricity. Secret information. The list is long. But above all, when you write a story for them, bear in mind that they do not possess the same power of concentration as an adult, and they become very easily bored or diverted. Your story, therefore, must tantalize and titillate them on every page and all the time that you are writing you must be saying to yourself, “Is this too slow? Is it too dull? Will they stop reading?” To those questions, you must answer yes more often than you answer no. [If not] you must cross it out and start again.

For me, these are words to write by. Funny that he should utter them within days of my birth! (Wait a second, did I just reveal my age?! Eh-hem, this is a rhetorical question, thankyouverymuch.)

UPDATE: Whoopsie. I looked at the wrong footnote. The quote above is from a letter Dahl wrote to “The Writer” Magazine in October, 1975: “A Note on Writing Books for Children”.

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COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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