Big Words, Clean Teeth & Jell-O for Brains: a Lovely Recipe for Life

Sue Archer: Editor, blogger, and master of not only English but nearly every science fiction and fantasy language to boot. Linguistic skills more impressive than the blinking and confusing cockpit lights of the Starship Enterprise. Have you need of a first-class editor to guide your manuscript to lofty heights of high-class quality? Sue’s your gal. Hungering for a few golden writing tips to sharpen your blog, your essays, your work-related writing skills? Look no further.

Peruse Sue’s new editorial site and her blog site too—and I do mean peruse in the truest sense of the term. DIG DEEP. There is pure gold in them there words.

And if you feel like putting your feet up for a spell, see her fine interviewing skills down below. It was a pleasure and an honor to work with this lovely, talented lady.

A woman with cosmic talent, and universal appeal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Conversation Corner with Shelley Sackier

Today I am holding a special edition of Conversation Corner with children’s author and humour blogger Shelley Sackier on her blog Peak Perspective. You don’t want to miss my first ever illustrated interview! Please come visit and read about our conversation on using large words, writing for children, how to be funny, and the advantages of having Jell-O for brains.

 

When I first read your About page, back when I was lucky enough to have discovered your blog, I was immediately struck by two things: your wonderful sense of humour and your mastery of large words. I’d like to know who I can thank for this. Who were your influences? And how did you land upon your clear calling as a humour writer?

Well, firstly, Sue, a prodigious “thank you” for the laudatory commendation.

290815laudatory

Yuck. That sounded awful. And pretentious. And so not me. Except for the part in quotes. I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you, as I’ve learned a great deal from reading your essays and articles. But however it was you came to find me, I really should send the contact person a batch of cookies as a show of affection with my bountiful thanks.

And as far as where you can send your thank you card? My hero, Peter Mark Roget—British physician, natural theologian and lexicographer. I think I read somewhere that he liked line dancing as well.

290815line

He wrote a little bestseller back in 1805, which unfortunately for his followers and admiring fan base was not widely published until 1852. But still, it now exists in all its glory. When I discovered there was a book To Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition I nearly had a small rapturous fit of delight. I was hooked. His thesaurus is my daily drug. Every morning I swallow my Omega 3s, glucosamine, and a page of Roget’s work.

Sadly, you may find that Peter is slow with his correspondence. I’m still waiting to hear back from him on a small addition I was hoping he might include in the next release, but you know busy authors, right?

And then there’s my dad. He was really funny whilst I was growing up. He’s still really funny. And much quicker with his exchange of letters.

The classification of a humor writer was something I just morphed into—like how incredibly fit and attractive people slowly mutate into pudgy, sagging, middle-aged folks who are exhausted, underpaid and overworked. It creeps up on you.

290815shapes

And also, making my children laugh was a good way to surreptitiously see their teeth and discover whether or not they’d brushed before bedtime.

Humor and hygiene go together like Punch and Judy. Well, that might not be a fitting example as they had a fairly contentious relationship. I think you get my point though.

290815pandj

I definitely get your point. I have found humour goes a long way in persuading kidlets to do all those “good for you” things. Also hugs. And maybe a stern look here or there. Did you find your experiences with persuading your children influenced how you wrote Dear Opl, which has its own “good for you” message about food?

I’m a firm believer in ‘time’ as the best teacher. I’ve always regarded the space between my children’s ears as a swampy, murky mess that was not going to fully settle into its final state until somewhere around the age of 25. It’s like Jell-O. I’ve got to keep tossing in as many parental pearls as I can right now with the hopes that later they’ll be viewed as worthy by the owner.

290815bigwords

That said, my mom drove home the message to me that all those bits of brilliance—the ones that immediately create the teenage phenomena of eyeball rolling, exaggerated sighing and door slamming—will be eureka moments that my children will have on their own and claim 100% ownership to. They will never—and I repeat the word never—remember that you were the one to give them the awesome info.

The best way to keep yourself sane in those moments of unacknowledged revelation is to simply chuckle at how well you worded it the first time around. Although a small part of me wants to leap up on the kitchen table, point a finger at their super smug dispositions and scream, “You’re totally plagiarizing my words from back in 2002 when you were 7!”

I’m guessing it would not go down as a bonding moment for any of us.

But yes, my “Dear Opl” messages are simply a spiffed up version of my “at home” message. And, as becomes clear in the book, not all of those messages are well-received or hit the mark, so I’m sure you can deduce the level of success I’ve had with my offspring.

Thankfully, neither one of them is close to 25 as of yet. I’ve got a ways to go before the Jell-O sets.

All power to you tossing in those pearls of wisdom, Shelley! I’ve certainly enjoyed the thoughts and observations that you’ve posted through your blog. 🙂  Could you share a little more about the message in your book, and how this message is expressed through the story?

One of the most important messages I wanted the book to convey was that there are no magic pills. Life is full of problems and we all have to handle them.

Pushing them away, ignoring them, or pretending they don’t exist creates an unruly monster that ends up taking over. The world is full of advice—both good and bad—but the filter system for determining which is which lies only within ourselves. People have stopped listening to the wisdom of their bodies and minds. It’s there. Buried beneath a boatload of advertising and social pressures to conform, but still there.

The book’s main character, Opl, does a lot of avoiding, rejecting and misguided judging. She’s in an emotionally fragile place as a result of the death of her father and living in a space that no one has been able to help her move through. So she muscles her way around on her own and continues down a path of unhealthy choices because they’re filled with instant gratification. The problem is solved and soothed for now. Kids struggle with looking more than 30 seconds in front of them, and this isn’t due to a lack of intelligence, it’s because of brain development. They don’t have all the tools yet and our job as parents and educators is to hand them those tools and explain the manual. At this point, a lot of it looks like it’s written in Klingon.

The grownups who care for Opl finally clue in to what’s happening and begin to nudge her into a place of growth—the inner kind, which is where she struggled with a deficit. Her grandfather helps her discover real food. Her yoga teacher illuminates Opl’s inner insight. And Rudy, an injured Iraqi vet who works at the food pantry, teaches her about desire and regret. These people are not there to “fix” her problems, but rather draw back the curtain so the chance for self-discovery is available.

As much as I support parents who see the need for their kids to fall down and scrape their knee, they still need the occasional Band-Aid. They are not tiny adults. It’s a fine line we walk in order to keep balance. You give them a little and you step back and watch. ‘Trial and Error’ parenting.

290815tiny

 Speaking of not being tiny adults…I imagine that writing for a younger audience must have required a very different approach from writing your blog. What types of things did you have to think about when writing your book, as opposed to blogging? And do you have any tips for readers who are looking at writing for younger readers?

In my experience, blogging and book writing are two different beasts, and employ two different skill sets.

I set about blogging to work on something very specific. I wanted to create the ability to demand my muse show up for work every single day. If my butt is in my chair, there had better be some bit of sparkle hovering about in the air that I can reach up and grab by the fistful.

290815magicus

It was about developing accountability for a job and not relying upon the tired trope of Ah well, writer’s block again. What can you do?

It ain’t easy. But I don’t think true accomplishment is meant to be.

Writing a novel is broken down into blissful and not so blissful sections. There is no feeling in the world to me quite like figuring out a scene, or the dialogue, or discovering the heart of a character and what they bring to the book. Writing Story is a method of therapy and psychoanalysis to me. I discover bits of ancient truth within the unfolding of this scrap of someone’s life. I’m nothing more than a translator of a highlighted piece of the human puzzle.

Okay, so that’s the purple prose flowery blissful part for me. Creativity explodes everywhere.

The not so blissful sections are the deadlines, the edits, the rejections of your edits, the people who don’t understand why you won’t just DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE. There’s a lot of that and more. You’ll know pretty soon if you’re cut out for this kind of life pursuit or not.

Advice for those looking to write for young readers? Be youthful. Be goofy. Go back in time—really try to propel yourself to those feelings, those situations, that mindset. The way you looked at life was so different. Again, kids are not just tiny adults. They’re a whole different animal, with claws and sharpened teeth, and fairy wings and magic wands. Bring back your ten-year-old self and give her a massive welcome home hug.

My ten-year-old self wanted to write fantasy novels, so I can definitely relate to the fairy wings and magic wands. 🙂 I think as adult writers we need to maintain that level of creativity and imagination if we want come up with compelling ideas and relatable characters. Like the character of G-pa from your story. How did he appear on the scene? (I must admit that G-pa was my favourite character, he kept cracking me right up.)

Every time I wrote a scene including G-pa, I just wanted to squish the guy. His gruff exterior masked a deep love for his grandkids and I loved making him struggle with the desire to show it.

He was effortless to create, and as I’ve come to discover within my books, I apparently always find the need to have a “G-pa” character in it. He’s mostly based on my dad so I’m sure it’s a Freudian thing.

As a side note, I’m a big believer in not having adults solve problems for kids in stories, but I’m also very aware of the fact that knowledgeable, loving, and encouraging adults are an absolute necessity for guidance. I believe the ability to problem solve is one of the greatest skills we can teach our kids, and G-pa felt like a character that could help contribute to that accomplishment.

Okay, now for the final and most important question. What is your favourite homemade dish? (And have your kids mastered the art of making it yet?)

Thankfully, neither of them have taken a strong liking to all those earthy Polish dishes I had to eat while growing up—the ones fortified with blood to try to cure the pastiness out of my people or all the ground up bits that got shoved into intestinal casings and called ‘links you’ll love, I promise—now eat.’

I think we all adore Fajita Nite. Whenever I picked up the vibes that someone’s day was going to hell in a handbasket, it was the one meal that never ceased to lift their spirits. Maybe it’s the fact that I line up all the ‘fill your tortilla with these options’ on the counter and to them it’s like visiting the buffet bar at Applebee’s, or that the house smells like an old Tex-Mex cantina for the next 24 hours, or it could be because I drag the mechanical bull out into the living room for after dinner entertainment—I’m not sure, but we all love it.

And no. I’m thinking it’ll be a while before they decide to make it themselves, if ever. Some recipes just don’t taste of home if you don’t make it there.

No, they don’t! Thanks for inviting me into your blogging home today, Shelley. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. And all the best to you with your book!

*ROBIN GOTT’s NEW POST* (click)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

58 thoughts on “Big Words, Clean Teeth & Jell-O for Brains: a Lovely Recipe for Life

  1. Big words?? Sometimes you just have to use them. And sometimes one of them is precisely the right word. Keep doing it. Nice interview. I also may go look at Sue’s site as I have a novel manuscript that’s been puzzling me too long…

  2. Totally identify with the “want to do something with your life” bit. I have many friends who don’t understand why I’m not out “living my life.” Sometimes I wonder myself – but then I run into people like you. Love your blog posts but hope to hear from Chloe every now and then too!

    • Jan, you’re so kind–and, no doubt in my mind, living a wonderful life that leaks with creativity and generosity. You are a shiny example of “living.”

      And I promise, Chloe has one more post coming next month. It’s my favorite of the three she’s done for me during the book launch. Not long to wait!

  3. Shelley, it was wonderful having an opportunity to chat with you. What an amazing introduction — I will do my best to live up to it! And thank you so much, Rob, for drawing such stellar stuff for my first ever illustrated interview. I laughed so hard at the tiny adults. 🙂

  4. Hey Shelley,

    I easily relate to dancing around, pointing to my children and saying “You’re totally plagiarising my words!” But then, any time I have giving into my ‘I told you so’ urges, a not-so-quiet voice in my head screams “You’re so totally plagiarising your mother’s words!” I can’t win.

    Great post as usual 🙂 Thank you for sharing this wonderful interview, and nice to meet you Sue.

    Clare

  5. Reblogged this on Doorway Between Worlds and commented:
    Today I am holding a special edition of Conversation Corner with children’s author and humour blogger Shelley Sackier on her blog Peak Perspective. You don’t want to miss my first ever illustrated interview! Please come visit and read about our conversation on using large words, writing for children, how to be funny, and the advantages of having Jell-O for brains.

  6. That was the most fun I’ve had since the last time I had this much fun.. A wonderful interview ladies. You chose a great subject in Shelley ,Sue, she’s wonderful and articulate ( could you ask when the cheque will be in the post please) and just amazing.
    Seriously, this was wonderful.
    xxx Huge Hugs both xxx

  7. Great interview Shelley and thanks for introducing us to Sue Archer – off to visit there in a moment. Rob has excelled himself with his visual accompaniment – I’m rather fond of those line dancers 🙂 Hope the reply from Mr Roget comes through soon, perhaps his e-mail server is down ?

    • One of the things I’ve enjoyed most–as a total perk while swimming about in the blog bayou–is having the chance to become well acquainted with many other peoples’ talents. When I come across someone’s skills that move me because they consistently do outstanding work, I feel compelled to share those people with as many others as I can. When I visit your site, I am transported into a visual world that is sophisticatedly bucolic and chic. I want to live inside your artwork, Jane. Sue’s teachings guide me through the prickly patches of the attempt to elevate my writing. Rob’s cartoons? Well, there are no words to describe how they affect me. Just visualize a pencil sketch of me splitting a gut.
      My point is, I think there are some amazingly talented people walking about. And I’m lucky to know many of them because they continually enrich my life.

      • You’re certainly right Shelley that the WP blogosphere is full of talented folk and the delight of blogging is stumbling across those people. I find it fascinating the number of times I find interesting new blogs and find some of my favourite bloggers are already there as part of the circle! PS Thanks as always for your kind words about my own efforts ! 🙂

      • Likewise Sue! Just took a peep through your inter-terrestrial doorway – I shall love visiting you! Wordcraft and good advice in one adverb-free package – has to be good 🙂 (As you see I make up my own rules when it comes to hyphenating!)

  8. Great interview, answers and cartoons. Children are not tiny adults, a great expression of a truth there. Will pop over and take a squiz at Sue’s blog. (Am sure you will hear from Roget any day now, right?)

  9. What an awesome interview! You both hit it out of the park, ladies. 🙂 I loved Dear Opl, and I think it’s a testament to your skill that you were able to juggle all of those warring values and perspectives as separate, and even though some people overcome their interpersonal conflicts, the people they are at the core remains. That takes real talent when they’re all coming from one head!

    • Thank you, Alex, for your lovely words. And speaking of cores, yours is filled solid with kindness and warmth. It’s one of the things I like most about you.
      And I do love the challenge of writing about subjects or from perspectives that are both foreign and contrary to my own. It’s a little like trying to communicate with somebody else’s head on your shoulders. Some of them are less attractive than others, but in the end, I think that pushes us to be not only better writers (to see other perspectives) but likely better humans.
      So that’s my answer to all world issues: everybody has to become a writer.
      Amen.

      • That’s a very touching thing to say. Thank you so much, Shelley.

        And that’s a great answer, too! Amen! 😀

        I thing the most amusing (or heartbreaking, depending on the scene) thing that happens is when a character decides to say something or do something and you are typing, but also going ‘uh oh…. No no no!’ at the same time. 😀

  10. I don’t normally read interview posts, but today I did because, well, it was you Shelley. It was a chance to peak under the hood of a writer I enjoy and respect. This interview delivered – and Rob’s illustrations were wonderful, as usual … especially the line-dancing 🙂

    I just wish I didn’t relate so keenly to the pudgy, well-beyond-middle-aged, sagster you talked about in your process of morphing into a humour writer. Your transmogrification process worked beautifully while mine went off on a detour somewhere along the way 😉

    Keep writing Shelley. You make us laugh, you make us think … always a great combination 🙂

    • Firstly, Joanne, how can I say thank you enough for taking the time to read this lengthy interview and make an exception to your rule? Will a mailbox full of fudge work?

      Secondly, I plan to embrace all the pudge that finds its way onto my body. I’ve started by buying a Muumuu dress in bright, tie dye colors so that I can walk around inviting breezy, creative plot lines and to generate fascinating character profiles. And then I realized it really just allowed me to eat more during lunch and hanker a nap directly following it. And because I was basically wearing a blanket … well, you can see this slippery slope forming, right? Still, I may not fight too hard to resist.

      Lastly, thank you for the encouragement. If you promise to read, I promise to write. ❤

  11. As a lover of big words and your fabulous sense of humor, I thoroughly enjoyed this interview, Shelley! And I totally agree with the fact that children are not little adults. I learned that quickly as an elementary school teacher – they just don’t have the context and experience to think problems through the way adults do. We have such a big responsibility as parents and teachers to guide them on the path until their Jell-o brains are less wobbly and more set!

    That’s funny that your favorite meal is fajitas, because our comfort meal is “taco night”. We love taco night. And you know what’s even better than taco night? The following night we take the leftovers from taco night, layer it in a pie plate (broken taco shells on the bottom, rice, corn, avocados, meat, sauces, and cheese on top), and then microwave it. We call it “taco pie”, and it is happiness on a plate after a long day!! 🙂

    • Ooh, taco pie. I’m sold. I just ate dinner and now I’m thinkin taco pie – that’s how sold I am. I may have to switch up to my slightly larger yoga pants and get back in the kitchen, Jen.

      I’d know idea you were a school teacher, and I am not for one second surprised. I’m betting you got A LOT of apples.

      • Lol!! Lots of penguins, actually. As soon as kids figure out there is something you like (my thing being penguins) you are inundated with them!! I do miss the kids and my classroom – I haven’t taught since my son was born. But I’m tutoring part-time at a middle school, and it feels good to still be making a difference in a small way. 🙂
        I hope you enjoy the taco pie!! Yum!!

  12. What a fun interview! Love the line dancers, and the tiny adults cracked me up. I find myself saying that to other parents quite a bit — teenagers are not tiny adults, and they shouldn’t be treated that way. Good luck with those parental pearls. It takes a looong time to get some of them to stick. Dear Opl has been added to my TBR list. Keep on writing!

  13. Hi Shelley, I’ve just had a quick re-read, not having had the internet connection to comment when I read before, and that bit about pearls of wisdom and children not acknowledging you as the source of their ‘new-found’ knowledge is ringing so true right now that I’m surprised the bells aren’t waking you up! I guess as parents, even of 23 year olds, we have to bit our tongues and roll with it. 😀

    It’s a great interview, even more so on second reading – well done both of you!

Don't hold back ... Hail and Speak!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s