Posts Tagged ‘picture book’

So work on the Critical Thesis for school is plodding along.  Today I got my first dump of articles I requested from the library and began to sort through to figure out what’s useful.  I’m in this odd state where I’ve got some ideas about what to say but not really how to put it.  At the same time I’ve got all this information that I’m thinking would work well if I could find a way to force them into the text.

This is where I’m trying to force slivers of truth into my thesis.  Suze thinks I’m doing this backward, or wrong, but I’m not really sure what I’m doing.  I mean, I know what I want to say, but not how to say it, and as I’m finding a chunk here and a nugget there I’m finding it doesn’t really fit like the jigsaw puzzle I imagined.

In talking with my classmates its become clear that we are either doing the impossible or need to reinvision the end product.  The average for most of us to come up with a first, rough draft is three weeks.

Three weeks.  For a critical thesis.

With most of us still waiting for books or articles and other secondary sources, or reading books frantically instead of giving them the close reading they deserve, this idea of a draft of anything coherent is simply impossible.  Fortunately none of us believe its impossible and we’re setting out to prove it.

Some are writing sections of their drafts with notes to themselves to drop in documentation when they find it (if they find it!), while others are still gathering the raw data.  I tried dictating some and transcribing it, and that seemed to work to get some rough ideas down, but I’m still worried I won’t have the time to do it all this way — a bit to leisurely — and I’m going to have to work a lot faster.

Just to really show how disorganized I am, I’ve also got a journal going that has a list of running questions.  Anything that I think can be asked or challenged, I phrase as a question with the idea of going back and making sure I cover every base.  What do I mean when I say a picture book?  How does a picture book biography differ from other picture books?  From other children’s biographies? And so on.  It’s a little like an assignment I had when I was credentialing to be a teacher.  We were charged to write an entire essay on our subject area — in my case, teaching art history — using only questions.  Each question had to lead to the next, or suggest the answer to a previous question, and it had to make sense in the end.  It was a lesson in the Socratic method, getting us to think about how we would organize and phrase our thoughts to lead students to draw the conclusions we wanted them to.  It was a great exercise, but it was only four pages, and it didn’t require footnotes and MLA style.

What am I trying to say in this thesis of mine?

Why is it important?

Is it possible I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, or can barely understand within the aloted time?

If I was worried about page count that went out the window when I began makin notes on the individual titles and found them coming in at around two or three pages per book.  Given that I’ll probably expand some of these ideas, at eight books, I’m not going to have any problems meeting my minimum 20 pages (though my advisor keeps saying things like 30 pages, which scares me because I think she might be right).

So I’m up late worrying about things because I can’t sleep and I can’t focus.  I’m looking at the weather and praying there’s no snow days this week because, much as I love the girls, I need these full days I have withou distraction to knock this thing out.  I need to have an outline and some structured ideas by the end of this week.  I need to write solidly all next week.  I need to edit and slot and jigger and slam and wobble this thing into some sort of shape.

Because all of a sudden I can hear my middle grade novel calling me.  Loudly.  It’s saying Hey!  I think we’ve got a new angle!  Present tense! And that sounds more intriguing to me than anything else right now.  Of course, the whole time I was playing with the boys in my middle grade novel there were ideas about the thesis trying to catch my eye.


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I’d been meaning to do this for a couple years now, and this week I finally figured out how to make the scanner work, so…

When I was a kid my mom signed me up for the Weekly Reader Book club one summer.  I don’t remember how often them came but in between book shipments there were book club editions of books.  One of them freaked me the heck out at the time but I never said anything about it for fear that I would have the book club taken away from me.

I talked about this book when I was older, in college, and no one believed it existed.  My memory of the story was strong but I never remembered the author until one day in my 30’s when I caught a passing reference to it in some magazine.  It did exist.  But I still had to wait another six years or so for the internet to be invented before I could track down a replacement copy of my very own.

The Crows of Pearblossom was Aldous Huxley’s only children’s book, perhaps for good reason.  He wrote originally for his niece in 1944 and a manuscript floated around until Random House and Weekly Reader hooked up with illustrator Barbara Cooney to create a book that creeped me out.

Over time I have come to recognize the value in telling stories that creep kids out.  I find the sanitized fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm that are constantly appropriated by Disney, or watered down to “modern sensibilities” to be highly distasteful. It’s as if picture books for children must be as sterile as anti-bacterial toys for children, raising a generation of readers so protected from the realities of the world that they don’t develop the appropriate immune systems for reading.  Could the first wave of these bubble-living readers be the adults looking to ban books for fear of infecting their children?

Anyway, it’s Halloween, so here’s the treat.  The Crows of Pearblossom, scanned and available for your reading pleasure over at my Flickr! account. Give it a gander and let me know what you think.

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I never do well at these things because (a) writing on command for contests really freezes me up and (b) I just don’t think I get the right vibe on the humor around this ol’ Vermont College.

The deal is, with every graduating class comes a party, and with each party a writing contest.  Last year… I forgot what it was.  I entered and lost.  Whatever.  This time around I thought I might have a chance: a good news/bad news film treatment contest.  The good news is that a famous/classic children’s book has been chosen to be turned into a big Hollywood film.  The bad news is, well, it’s being made into a crappy big Hollywood film.  100 to 200 words.

This should so totally be mine.  I know films, I know classic kid’s books, I even know how to write a freakin’ treatment.  But humor is the name of the game and maybe I’m not as funny as I think I am when under the gun.

There were co-winners, a treatment for Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath pitched as as musical — “It’s Cape Fear meets Oklahoma!”  The other winner was Anne of Green Gables starring Li’l Kim.  Me?  I went with It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World crossed with Pulp Fiction for a retelling of the P.D. Eastman classic Go, Dog, Go! It goes a little something like this…

Yo, Dawg, Go!

An Old Dog careens off the highway and with his dying breath reveals to a group of strangers of a secret stash hidden in a suitcase in a coastal California city.  Among the strangers are Big Dawg and Little Dawg, a pair of hitmen who have been assigned to retrieve the suitcase for their boss, Top Dawg.  They immediately wipe out the other witnesses to the accident and head off to claim the loot themselves.

Along the way Little Dawg is asked by Top Dawg to look after his wife who insists on a series of exchanges over whether or not they like each other’s hats.

Eventually Big Dawg and Little Dawg continue their drive across country and discover the suitcase with the loot on top of a large tree full of other Dawgs.  While Little Dawg sends the tree full of Dawgs to bed for the Big Sleep, Big Dawg foams at the snout barking biblical verse from Ezekiel before returning the suitcase to Top Dawg.

Driving away, Big Dawg and Little Dawg discuss the misuse of the article “der” in the name of the fast food chain Der Wienerschnitzel.

Quentin Tarantino directs.

Eh, I at least gave it a shot.  Maybe I was too esoteric in my references.

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