Articles

Animal Stories

When I was a child I devoured the series of animal stories by Thornton W. Burgess. Some I received as gifts. Others I bought with saved coins and I borrowed some from the library. I have one left.

Abigail-SkunkSomeday I would write stories about animals too. I noted that Mr. Burgess did not write about exotic animals such as elephants and giraffes but about animals that he observed around his local area. One charming attribute of his stories is that though he focused on one animal’s story, the other animals have small parts in it which brings about a charming cohesiveness.

Now I have my series underway. So far, I have written about a squirrel, a bear (3 stories), a crow, a rabbit, and a skunk. I am hoping to include an owl, a raccoon, a coyote, a deer, a seagull, and perhaps a hummingbird. So I am about halfway.

Each animal is partly inspired by newspaper articles, and anecdotes but I also research the animals in order to achieve an authentic ‘tail’!

One of these stories I have published – Abigail Skunk’s Lessons for her Kits.

Imagine that!

Meg

Why THEIR Way?

Imagine their problems in trying to help those who won’t help themselves.

A magazine article for writers spelled out hundreds of formatting requirements for submissions to agents or publishers. I read the advice with painstaking patience, but when I had finished reading, I had to think. It seemed so arrogant and demanding of them to require such detailed adherence to their formats and to make the threat that not conforming earns your manuscript the circular file. I had to smother my resentment. Any writer is naturally creative, so it’s akin to wearing handcuffs.

I thought again. Fortunately, my creative nature allows me to walk in their shoes — that little exercise made clear the benefit I could receive.

I picture the agent or editor sitting in the office sipping on a morning coffee when the secretary enters with one thousand submissions for the day. (I can exaggerate. I’m a writer. I’m sure they do.)  

  1. The first submission has a cover letter running five pages giving the author’s history including her experience with a nasty divorce.
  2. The second manuscript is printed single spaced with light blue ink on colored paper. Pretty and unreadable.
  3. The third is printed in columns.
  4. The fourth has the required three chapters but each is stapled firmly and one is covered with coffee stains.

PLUNK!  THUD!  BANG!  THUMP! Into the wastebasket they go until she sees one respectively addressed to her, presented in her required format, clean and easy to read. She sips her coffee and settles to work.

I want my “audience” to pay me that kind of attention, so I’ll follow all the rules I can, but—-If I miss one rule, please know I tried to abide, so please take my side and don’t crush my pride.

At least read it.

It’s my job to have fun!

From the moment I embraced the skill of talking I became a teacher. My first pupils were ideal. Because they were dolls, they didn’t fidget or squirm, chew gum, throw spitballs or talk back. Occasionally one fell off a chair but I didn’t send them to the nurse I just replaced them on the chair and kept teaching.

In grade school, Grade Three, I became a tutor teaching boys to learn to read. In high school I tutored again teaching grammar.

Eventually I became a real teacher with my degree in education, but then family came along, so I taught my own.

And finally I found writing to be a perfect vehicle for teaching children one of the hardest subjects (and one I hated in school) – History!

Thus the Alexander Catts’ I and II came into being. They and their ‘meowmoirs’ help me show children “what it was like when” and the most famous people were just human beings who dealt with life like we do.

Alex (Alexander Catt I) met Ramses, Leonardo da Vinci, Columbus, Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sam Steele, Queen Victoria, Eisenhower and Emily Carr, to name a few.

So far Lexi (Alexander Catt II) has met Ramses, Hippocrates and now Sir J. Lister. The goal is to make some of the highlights of the history of medicine not only understandable but interesting and hopefully entertaining.

The challenge is to make the gruesome palatable because the subject matter is often gross and we don’t want children to cry, or worse, throw up or develop fears about going to the doctor.

Even the study of health in Grade Four did that to me as a child and I write at the Grade Four level so I understand.

Looking back at the nineteenth century the chances of surviving childbirth, a broken leg, or simple operations were slim. Lister changed that by keeping his head and persevering against popular opinion by providing proof. He was a cool hero.

And my job is to depict all that – Fun!

How I wrote Hippocrates

Let me tell you a little history. I hated studying history in school. I couldn’t remember all those dates and wars were exasperatingly stupid to me. Now I write about history for children and I love doing it. How did that happen?

It started when I took a brief intro course on the use of a computer. Overnight I started writing a series of stories that covered history from ancient times to the mid twentieth century through the eyes of my character Alexander Catt. What fun!

Do you believe in serendipity? My good friend and son-in-law suggested a new series on the history of medicine. From the previous research I knew it would have to begin with ancient Egypt. SHAZAM! I was invited to a museum exhibit on ancient Egypt and there in the gift shop was a book on Medicine in Ancient Egypt! The story wrote itself.

Did you know that the symbol for drugstores came from ancient Egypt?

I was reading a biography of Hippocrates when (SHAZAM!) my daughter gave me a worn ragged old book on the ancient Olympics and the story “Lexi and Hippocrates Find Trouble at the Olympics” wrote itself.

Did you know that Niki was the goddess of victory?

Did you know that those ancient runners ran naked? Now that’s racy!

Did you know that Hippocrates taught medicine under a tree?

So, what’s next in my little history? I let serendipity guide me. Doctors are now required to view a program on washing hands before they renew their licenses to practice medicine. Incredible! Why? The answer begins with Lister. I can’t wait to write this one! Do you know if there is a book about the man?

So far all I know is that he took his new bride on a honeymoon to Europe to visit all the hospitals. Now there’s a story!