Friday, July 23, 2010

Influences


I have spent most of my summer researching, writing, and preparing for an upcoming writer’s conference. What makes this conference so special to me is its focus on children’s writing. I’m practically pinching myself and have already packed several chapters of my novels along with a few other pieces in anticipation of sharing them with fellow writers.

While stacking printouts yesterday I started thinking about how I went from writing in my diary as a kid, to writing as a hobby in college, to writing freelance and now working on young adult and children’s stories. I thought about people and books that made an impression on me and thought it would be fun to do a series about what I learned from those who followed their passions, inspiring me to do the same.

First up is Fred McFeely Rogers, or “Mister Rogers” as many of us lovingly referred to him. When I was little I used to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood every morning. I would sing along with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” while Rogers zipped up his famous red cardigan and changed into his blue tennis shoes. (Later in my marketing days, during a rebranding campaign, I realized how powerful that sweater was for his image.)

I spent the next thirty minutes of my morning in a make-believe place where a trolley took me to see owls that talked and tigers that lived in clocks. When we arrived back in the living room I got to “help” feed the fish before looking at a picture that magically transformed, showing me how erasers and crayons were made in their respective factories.

Rogers took me on a virtual field trip to see an art museum, a ballet studio, and introduced me to Yo Yo Ma whom I now listen to as an adult. I saw people on his show I’d never have the opportunity to meet in real life, and in some way seeing those people in creative careers encouraged me to follow suit.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was children’s programming at its finest. It was educational and fun, teaching kindness and generosity. I genuinely believe Rogers wanted his audience to feel special, to know that they were created and packaged with gifts and talents to be used in various ways. And he brought people on his show to give viewers a glimpse and an appreciation for what’s out there—at least that’s what he did for me.

You see, I studied music, choir and dance in school—that’s where I learned not everyone was made to play oboe and piano, which was okay because I believed I would eventually excavate those things that made me special, those things people like Rogers said were inside me.

All of this brings me to present where I am fondly reflecting on past inspirations that helped shape me for what lies ahead. Fred McFeely Rogers had a passion for people, life, culture, the arts, and he influenced my generation to do the same. And for his contagious joy and far-reaching contribution to children’s television, I am grateful.

I’d love to hear about your influences, people, movies or books that inspired you in some way. For example, I read The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers, and it was filled with wonderful sayings and teachings. I posted a picture of it sitting on my bookshelf. If you have any to recommend, I’d be glad to check them out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fun on the Fourth


I’m not your quintessential Texan if the word conjures up images of oversized trucks, colorful cowboy boots, ten-gallon hats, or belt buckles the size of a license plate. No, I prefer compact cars, solid patterns, high heels, and I listen to jazz, pop, classical, rock…pretty much everything except for country music. But when it comes to food, I’m a southern girl all the way, and no Fourth of July celebration would be complete without barbeque.

My husband and I like to try different barbeque restaurants, and we’d heard about a good one just north of where we live so we made the trip a couple of weeks ago. I cringed when we pulled into the parking lot, my OCD kicking in at the sight of the gas pumps. In my experience, gas stations and restrooms always equaled nightmares. So, gas stations and restaurants, was he kidding?

The first words out of my mouth were, “No way,” my arms crossed like a temperamental child. “I’m not eating here.” My husband assured me it was worth it, but I had my mind made up otherwise. I coated my hands in sanitizer, hoping it would serve as a protective barrier from the world of germs awaiting us inside.

I reluctantly followed him to the entrance, and when he opened the door I was hit by a gust of sweet, smoky goodness rushing to greet me like an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. To my surprise the place was clean and open with family style seating, picnic tables and folding chairs. The staff was very friendly and gave us so many samples I could hardly finish my meal.

So, on July Fourth we went back and took my mom to experience this awesome gas station/barbeque wonder. As you can see in the photo, we ate our fill of chopped and ribbed meats, and not on plates mind you, but on strips of paper that had a wax coating on the back to prevent seepage. They even provided bread for you to sop up any extra calories you might have missed.

We left happy hearted and sticky-fingered, and I’d go back again a hundred times over to pay homage to the restaurant that broke through my image of what dining should be and made me eat my words.

Am I the only one? Or has anyone else had the opportunity to do something they thought or said they would never do? Or maybe it was something that challenged or pushed you forward. If you have, I’d love to hear about it.

Thought for today: Be adventurous, and don’t be afraid to try something new.