Category: Writing

The Shop Dog Diaries: We Have a Few Things to Say About Halloween — Musing

Lewis is following his humans on a new adventure, and turning in his Shop Dog badge. We’ll miss you, Lewis! Dear Chuckleheads, When we were puppies and wanted a treat, we simply went up to a human and asked for one. We did this by looking cute. We didn’t need a costume for that because […]

The Shop Dog Diaries: We Have a Few Things to Say About Halloween — Musing

Note from Kate:

This is a post from the always entertaining and enlightening Parnassus Books blog. The bookstore is located in Nashville, TN and is unique in a few ways: The author Ann Patchett is the co-owner, the staff bring their dogs to work, and said dogs have their own blog on the site.

I’ve been to Memphis but not Nashville. It’s definitely on my travel list once this plague disappears.

Say it with Pictures

Barcelona has nothing to do with the content of the post, but you went to this first, didn’t you?

I was never very good at remembering names.

As I get older, the time between the moment when I think about someone–maybe an actor or a college classmate–and the moment when I conger their name, is decidedly longer. And I do mean conger because the name seems to pop into my head when I’m not trying to remember it. I’ll lean down to unload the dishwasher and suddenly say: “Tom Hanks!”, which could sometimes cause the dog to run to the kitchen window to see if Tom was at the side door.

By now I’m used to it and not especially concerned. I’ve accepted the fact that the window for me becoming a contestant on Jeopardy! (“I’ll take Sleepless in Seattle for $500, Alex.”) has closed.

This morning, as I was at the computer purportedly working from home, a name that I hadn’t been trying to remember popped into my head. It was a college classmate who I hadn’t thought about in years. We were both in Journalism school back in the era of moveable type and darkrooms. One of us became a very successful Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist. (Hint: It’s not me.)

I enjoy taking pictures. I like the permission a camera gives me to push in just a little closer to the subject, something I would never think of when I’m at an event without a camera.  And I confess I do like some of my photos. In fact, like a pro golfer who can recall every stroke in a tournament, I can remember taking my favorite photographs–how I found the right angle, how I was crouched down, how I cropped it in the viewfinder and what I saw before I pressed the shutter, how I fixed it after the fact…but I’m not out every day with the camera and I’m certainly not technical. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, more in command of a phrase than a photograph.

One truth I have learned, however: In the blogging world, photos get far more views than text.


Tell me one good thing

Just one. Tell me about one person, event, movie, or meal. Anything good that’s happened to you during this pandemic. In my case, it was a very good novel and an interesting conversation between two authors.

I watched a virtual book launch a few weeks ago. Instead of going to a bookstore to see the author and buy a signed copy of her new novel, a group of friends and fans joined the event via Skype. She was interviewed by another author who was in her home several states away.

A member of the bookstore’s staff welcomed everyone and started by reading the publisher’s PR blurb about the book.

Then she introduced the two authors and stepped aside to let them talk. I had ordered an electronic copy of the novel the day before and finished it a few hours before the event, so I was able to recognize the scenes and characters that they discussed. Forty-five minutes is probably not enough time for a master class but it was certainly time well spent.

Now, tell me your one good thing.

On writing: From marrow bones to lint brushes (Part 2)

Photo credit: Hammacher Schlemmer
Photo credit: Hammacher Schlemmer

So, where were we?

Ah, we were talking about finding inspiration for your writing by just paying attention to what is going on around you. I was telling you about the Kickball Ice Cream Maker in an earlier post. This is a rubberized ball that you can fill with ingredients, then hand the ball over to someone more energetic than myself to toss and kick it around for at least 20 minutes. Then you open it up and enjoy the ice cream.

The ad for it reminded me of my family’s hand-crank ice cream freezer and how it took all of us to make the ice cream. My mother would mix the ingredients into a custard, then my father would fold an old, brown wool Army blanket and place it on top of the freezer so that I could sit on it to hold the freezer steady while he turned the crank — a perfect division of labor.  I cannot see a wooden ice cream freezer without thinking about how it felt to sit on that scratchy wool blanket.

I read about the Kickball Ice Cream Maker in an e-mail from retailer Hammacher Schlemmer. The page also displayed thumbnail images of “Related Items”, which is where I spotted The Genuine Good Humor Ice Cream Cart, which you may remember from your childhood. One or two ice cream trucks or carts used to come through our neighborhood every summer evening, causing a swarm of children clutching coins and running to buy the frozen treats. (I think orange Dreamsicles were my favorites, followed by cherry or grape Popsicles or the occasional Drumstick.)

Since they seemed to arrive just as my mother was making dinner, she used to come into the living room and turn up the volume on the TV so that I couldn’t hear the jingling bells. She confessed this years later and I don’t seem to be psychologically scarred from the experience.

These carts are still in production and can be purchased for a mere $2500.00. I have to wonder who would purchase such an item? I have a friend who owns an ice cream parlor in a coastal New England town. I can see her buying one for advertising, having one of her young employees pedal through the narrow streets to reach new customers.

They would be great just as a food cart to be pedaled about or taken from summer festivals to concert venues. Two words of caution for any of you thinking about buying The Genuine Good Humor Ice Cream Cart: “Assembly required.” Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I also see some Serious Businessman buying a cart to set up his young children in a summer business. The attorneys could take care of incorporation papers and bribing the local health inspector. His children could print their names next to the X on the loan agreements that the attorneys drew up. All would agree that it’s too early to incorporate. First, let’s drive that cute little lemonade stand on the corner out of business. Then we can think about the IPO.

Hey, it’s just business, right? All’s fair in business.

I admit I don’t have any good experiences with the business world because I never had any fun. But I would have loved to had my very own Genuine Good Humor Ice Cream Cart when I was young.  That would have been nothing but fun.

Instead, my first experience with business was joining Junior Achievement (JA) in high school. Given the title of this post, you should not be surprised to hear that we manufactured and sold lint brushes in our little company.

Not to disappoint you, but it’s not as exciting as it might sound.


On writing: From marrow bones to lint brushes (Part 1)

Photo credit: Hammacher Schlemmer
Photo credit: Hammacher Schlemmer

Usually when I am stumped for a subject for this blog, I run to the grocery store. This is not a case of approach avoidance. Rather, my theory is that if you pay attention in a grocery store, there is almost always something happening that you can write about. To wit: Do you know where the fruit in that cup has been? and There’s an annoying woman at register 6.

To be honest, you can find material in any public space. It’s just that since I discovered that giving my hyper-active dog marrow bones is an excellent way to keep him occupied during the evening (and keep his teeth shiny, shiny, white!), I have to make several trips to the grocery store each week.

The added benefit to this is that I am somewhat of an expert in where to go for the best marrow bones in town. I have discovered a butcher who keeps oh-so-much meat on the bones that I really need to buy some for making beef stock. I would give you the name of the store but I need to protect my source. Four of my cousins are coming for a mini family reunion in a few weeks and, since their plane gets in late on a Saturday, I thought homemade beef vegetable soup would make a good, not-to-heavy meal for them. So there’s that.

I did not start out to write about marrow bones and if you are vegan or vegetarian, I apologize.

No, I was going to write about where and how to find an idea and build on it, although the soup does sound delicious, doesn’t it? Did I mention I’m also baking some loaves of hearth bread, too? (Really, with all these culinary gifts, it just amazes me that I’m still single–and probably for the best.)

But once again, I digress.

The point is, an idea for a story or blog can come from anywhere. Your job as the author is to just pay attention.

This morning I received an e-mail from my friends at Hammacher Schlemmer. I’d bought a few things from them years ago and I am still on their mailing list. I’ve never unsubscribed because I find some of their over-the-top products amusing. Today’s e-mail was for a product called the “Kickball Ice Cream Maker.” Honestly, how could you not investigate this?

The Kickball Ice Cream Maker looks like a blue kickball but it has two interior chambers: one holds the ice cream ingredients and the other holds ice cubes and rock salt, which freeze the ingredients into ice cream. The idea is to fill both chambers and then give the ball to some children to kick said ball around for at least 20 minutes, after which you open the ingredients chamber and scoop out your now-frozen ice cream.

First of all, I am not exactly a germaphobe, but where has that ball been kicked? What is clinging to the exterior of the ball? Is that sand…dirt…cow poo? How do I keep the exterior ingredients from the internal ingredients?

Can you see the story possibilities here? And all from an e-mail–or marrow bones.

And now, since I’ve topped 500 words, which is the limit for most readers to stay with a blog post, I will stop now.

If you want to see how I take the topic from marrow bones to lint brushes, stay tuned.

Fallow Time


You have to love an agent who tells her authors to get a museum membership when they are trying to write a novel. And here I thought I was just having trouble concentrating all these years. It was fallow time: daydreaming, giving the thoughts, images, and creative ideas time to form.

The Janet Reid, Literary Agent  blog is always enlightening and entertaining.

Trust me

Of all the love/hate relationships in the world, is there one any more mystifying than that between Labor and Management?

I suspect that the reason the employer/employee relationship is such a Kaibuki dance of posturing and insecurity is that no one trusts anyone–and probably for good reason.

I found the following in a job description. It was listed after the Summary of the Position and Requirements.

Other Information

Candidates must undergo a criminal background check and drug test before being hired
Fun, supportive, high-trust working environment that rewards entrepreneurialism and creativity

In other words, we trust you…but only after you urinate in a cup for us.

I always pass on these “opportunities” but some day I’m going to ask the Hiring Manager if she would mind coming along with me to take a drug test, too–just to reassure me that I’m not about to work for a doped-up criminal.

Can’t be too careful these days.


Out of Ideas? Read the Local Paper!

Facsimile of an actual ad. If you are Mr. Moore of Marblehead, read the local paper!
Facsimile of an actual ad. If you are Mr. Moore of Marblehead, read the local paper!

Sometimes when you feel your creative well has gone dry, you spot an ad such as this in the morning paper. 
Oh, the possibilities with this little nugget! Are your creative juices flowing yet?