Archive for June, 2011

California is to America . . .Northern California Vs. Southern California . . . Vs. Wisconsin

June 20, 2011

“California is to America what America is to the rest of the world.”  

Howard Ogden

When I flew from Wisconsin to California over thirty-five years ago in pursuit of a higher education and warmer weather, I gazed out of the airplane windows in awe.   In my sheltered teen life, I didn’t know what was out that window.  Were those large mounds sand dunes?  I didn’t realize there was so much desert in California!

Landing in San Francisco, I met my former high school English teacher who gave me my first introduction to “the city,” with sourdough bread, Coit Tower, and an impromtu accidental visit with another student from my hometown we  ran into at Fisherman’s Wharf.

 I fell in love with the ocean, the fog, and yes, those mounds that turned out to be the golden hills of grass in a California summer. 

As my teacher/friend drove me to my new home, the Central Valley, a wave of dry heat hit me in a welcome like no other.  When I was given the perfect job in one of my majors  at the Child Drama Center on the first day of school and met a group of people in the children’s theater department who turned out to be great friends, I knew I found THE place.  What is better than hot summers, good friends, and creating art for kids? 

Years later, after graduation, directing children’s plays, teaching, marriage, writing and my husband’s transfer, we now enjoy Northern California, and visits to THE CITY, one of my favorite destinations in the world. 

My aunt Dorothy, who lived in Southern California, would call me to let me know why she thought her half of the state was better.  I told her why we knew she was wrong.   In plastic L.A.  (anything south of Santa Barbara we northerners consider to be L.A.), you have to look like a botoxed fashion model who hasn’t eaten in a week.  Since eating is a  passion of mine, and my wrinkles are MY wrinkles, you know where I stand.

While visiting my aunt down in LA LA land, we switched on a television weather report.  The blonde newscaster, teetering on high heels and a too-tight mini-skirt squeeked, “Oooh!  We’ve got puffy clouds!” 

My husband, son, and I all looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Puffy clouds?”  For that, we could have looked out our window. 

When I’d  visit my Wisconsin relatives and they’d recite California’s horror stories of  fire and earthquakes, they’d shudder and ask, “Why would you ever live out THERE?” 

But when I listened to their tales of the coldest winter on record, the most snow, the worst tornado, the winds that took off the neighbor’s roof . . . . I’d say to them, “Why do you want to stay HERE?”

I must admit I do miss snow at Christmas, midnight mass, a real-honest-too-goodness fall, fish fry Fridays, lakes, Milwaukeese, European ethnic foods found everywhere, (not just at one expensive restaurant in The City) spacious green backyards, and affordable housing.

I don’t miss slipping on ice while walking, driving on black ice, shoveling snow, that bitter north wind, and Jello salad. 

Now if only we had transporters so we could see the people we love from both areas more often. 

“When you get tired of walking around San Francsico, you can always lean against it.”  Travel Brochure

“You can’t find true affection in Hollywood because everyone does fake affection so well.”  Carrie Fisher 

You are from Wisconsin if . . .

  • Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost.
  • You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.
  • You find minus twenty degrees “a little chilly.

Writer’s Prompts: 

1.  Write about the various places you’ve lived, pro and con.  Funny and not-so-funny.

2.  In your latest story or project, make the geographical place important in some way.  Show us where the character is by using your senses, description, and dialogue without actually telling us the actual place.  Can you do it by giving clues?

3.  Which trip have you gone on that has been your favorite place?  Why? 

4.  Create a “bucket list” of places you’d like to visit.  Choose one and research it.  Plan your itinerary.  Now place a character here and take the character on that trip.

Funny but true: Wedding Snafu

June 16, 2011

Yesterday, my husband drove us in the car to complete errands, windows cracked open a few inches to allow the cool breeze inside. My right hand rested outside on the window frame. As the car picked up speed, it got a bit breezy for Bob, so he hit the power button window on his door. Only he hit the other button. It closed my window.

Zzzzt. The sound made me react immediately. I pulled in my hand so fast Bob whipped his eyes from the road.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“You pushed the wrong one. My hand was out there!”

“Oh, sorry,” he said, searching for the right switch.

Memories flooded back to our wedding day. My Uncle Arnold had painted a JUST MARRIED sign which we placed in the back window of our car. After the church service, on the way to the reception, a friend pulled up next to us at a stop light.

Mike had noticed our fallen sign. He opened the passenger door of our two-seater car, shoved my seat forward, forcing me nearly into the dashboard. I gripped the door frame for balance. Mike straightened the sign as the light turned green. He threw my seat back, and slammed the door. Mike jumped back into his own car. 

My husband was about to take off when he saw my face.

“Uh, bluh, glug . . .” sounds emitted from my mouth. They were sort of a sob/scream/gurgle. For once, pain made me speechless.

“What’s the matter?” my new husband asked. “

Uh, bluh, glug . . .” I clearly articulated.

Fortunately, our friends in Mike’s car saw my protruding fingers; Mike leaped out of the car to save them.

After I refused to go to the hospital, we raced to the reception hall where one of my bridesmaids, a nurse, assured me my hand was just badly bruised and nothing was broken. I kept an ice bag on my swollen hand for the rest of the day.

That wasn’t the only mishap of our wedding day, June 20, 1981 in Fresno, CA. It was 110 degrees, and I remember wondering if everyone in church could actually see the beads of sweat rolling down my back.

Before the church service, when my friend Carol, the pianist, asked me what time she should start playing the entrance music, I knew the answer. Being from a prompt Midwestern family, when something starts at ten a.m., it STARTS AT TEN A.M.

Carol played our cue at ten o’clock sharp. We made our way down the aisle.

We waited.

And waited.

The minutes ticked by.

Bob and I exchanged nervous glances. Where was the priest? Did he get an urgent call from nature? A rich, talkative parishioner stop by with an offer for a donation? Did the priest get cold feet?

Finally, after what seemed like an hour but was probably ten minutes, Father appeared, upset we started without him.

Obviously, he wasn’t from the Midwest.

Writing Prompts:

1. When has a sound motivated an action? By you? By a character?

2. Write a scene where a sound plays an important role in saving someone from emotional or physical pain.

3. Familiar scenes can trigger memories from long ago. Write a scene for a character which triggers a memory that is important to your character.

4. Write an important scene in your character’s life and have things go wrong. How does your character handle it? Throw obstacles in his/her way. First make the scene painful. Next, make it funny!


California Writer Club Young Writers Contest – Check your newspaper THIS WEEK for the photo and article about the Young Writers Contest Banquet.  Jacquie Oliverius writes YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD and it’s in her column TODAY in the Pleasant Hill/Martinez Record.   Thank you Jacquie for letting me know!

Of Tom Hanks, Publishing, and Your Summer Must List

June 6, 2011

In a recent issue of a Entertainment Weekly, celebrities were asked to name MY SUMMER MUST LIST.  Bravo for Tom, in listing BOOKS, BOOKs, BOOKS as one of his.

  Here’s what he wrote:  “I still carry a bag of books around all summer, as I am not enamored with the tactile experience of reading books on Kindles or iPads.  (Magazines, scripts, and newspapers, sure, but my policy on books is: Buy, Read, Keep.)  Waiting for a plane?  Book it.  Kids frolicking safely in the surf?  Check on them as you turn the page.  Fried clams taking forever to hit the table?  Finish a chapter.”

I have lovely memories of my son receiving gifts of books as a child.  What’s the first thing he’d do?  Crack it open, press his nose into the middle and inhale deeply.   The euphoria on his face said it all.

I love the smell of books too.  So does my dog.  At least the ones that come from used bookstores and the library, where many hands have touched them. 

Upon coming home, books in my arms, I’ll call to her. “Zoie!  I’ve got library books!”  She’ll zoom from her bed and bound over to the stack I’ve placed on the floor, like I’ve presented her a T-bone steak. 

Our favorite activity?  While I read these very books, after she thoroughly checks them out with her good sniffs, Zoie will curl up in my lap for a snooze.  

And what about the touch of the book itself?  The feel of the crisp paper, the joy of completion upon reading page after page.  The weight of the book in your hands; running your hands over the cover to feel its texture. Does it feel smooth?  Are the letters of the title raised? 

I will agree that for some huge weighty books, like the book recently released containing Mark Twain’s wonderful words and wit,  an electronic device would have been more convenient than setting it upon a pillow.  But then it would have deprived me of bragging rights.  Oh, poor me . . . (cue violin music) . . . holding up that huge book . . .

But I agree with Tom.  The actual book itself is an experience to be enjoyed.

My Summer Must List: 

1. Books: 

Besides reading a pile of books for research on a current project I’m writing, I’d love to take a break and read Betty White’s book, If You Ask Me:  (And of Course You Won’t) because I’ve always admired her work with animals and her work as a comedic actress.

Countdown, by Deborah Wiles, is about the 1960s Cold War era, and everything by this incredible author is terrific so I can’t wait to read this one.   This probably will be my first reward after I get some of my research done.

Modoc, The True Story of the Greatest Elephant that Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer.  A biography set at the turn of the century, I’ve heard wonderful things about this story and can’t wait to read it. 

2.  Movies

My goal is to see more old movies, because the scripts are delightful.  As I watch them, I pay attention to the story and character development just as I do when I read a book.

Movies I need to re-watch . . . Born Yesterday, Bringing up Baby, It Happened One Night,  Strangers on a Train,  oh my gosh. I shouldn’t get started.

I suppose I should actually go OUT to see a movie too.  Locally, we have a marvelous old theater with a huge screen that we adore.  A couple of weekends ago we saw Midnight in Paris, a must for anyone who loves literature and/or art.  If you can get past Owen Wilson always acting like Owen Wilson, it’s a terrific lose-yourself-in-the-film time.  I especially enjoyed Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein.

3.  Spend time in nature.  In WARM nature. 

I love the warm weather, and I’m hoping our Northern California’s cold rainy May and early June will soon change.  But even if it doesn’t, long walks and communing with our natural parks and trails is on my must-do this summer. 

4.  Visit historical sites.  Local history in small towns is everywhere and it’s fascinating.    Talking with locals who have lived in one place forever are not only entertaining but the anecdotes and details may flavor one’s writing in the future.


Check out this great blog about writing and publishing:

 The Passive Voice.

San Francisco’s Cartoon Museum Presents Cartoon Workshops!

June 3, 2011

2011 Cartoon Boot Camp

It’s time for the sixth annual Summer Cartooning Classes! Learn how to story board, how animation and stop motion is created and create your own cartoon characters, super heroes and more!

Taught by cartoonist Brian Kolm.

Ages: Intermediate level artists from 10-14 years old.

Time: All sessions run Monday through Friday from 2:00PM to 4:00 PM

Manga Mania – Cartooning class Saturday, June 11th and Friday, July 15th, 2011 Cartooning classes with Karen Luk.

 Karen Luk, professional illustrator and comic artist, will reveal the secrets behind manga faces, body language and basic character design. Basic drawing skills are helpful, but not required.

Come & level up your manga drawing skills! 8-12 year olds 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM For beginners & curious 

King of RPGs Launch Party! Saturday, June 4, 2011, 5:30-7:30pm

Free and open to the public


Announcing Volume 2 of the New York Times Bestselling Graphic Novel Series from Del Rey

 Join the author and artist of King of RPGs, the bestselling Del Rey graphic novel series, at the Cartoon Art Museum 

 Green Lantern Exhibition Preview: The Green Tie Event

Thursday, June 9, 2011, 7:00-9:00pm Green Tie Tickets

Just in time for Green Lantern’s theatrical debut, the Cartoon Art Museum is presenting the first museum exhibition celebrating 70 years of DC Comics’ emerald knight! Over 60 pieces of original artwork will be on display, including works by Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Joe Staton, Mike Mignola . . .

For more information on these events, visit


Art Contest for Kids – – Honor Your Dad for Father’s Day!

If you are ages 4 – 15, draw and color a portrait of your dad and submit it for possible publication at the Contra Costa Times.  Include your full name and age, your father’s full name and your city of residence.  Also complete the following sentence:  “My dad is . . . “(Please write no more than one sentence.)

Email submissions as JPEG files (at least 400 KB in size) to

They will publish a few of their favorite portraits in TimeOut before Father’s Day and include those and others in an online slide-show on their websites.

Ice Cream For Breakfast! Harry Potter, Wacky Doodles and More!

June 1, 2011
JULY 7   8:00am – 9:00am

Ice cream for breakfast!  

Treat yourself one morning this summer and start the day off with vanilla or chocolate! 


JULY 14   8:00pm




Come watch Harry Potter #7 part 1 before you go to a midnight screening of part 2!

Harry Potter trivia and prizes! Costumes optional. 


JULY 19   3:00pm – 4:00pm
Fancy Nancy Afternoon Tea
dress in your fanciest clothes and have fancy cookies, fancy tea, and learn the fanciest manners, dahling!


July 26   2:00pm – 3:00pm

Wacky Doodles!

Create all sorts of kooky characters in this super-fun doodle workshop!

*With artist Michael Slack!*

August 1   5:00pm – 6:00pm

Pet Parade!

Bring your pet and meet others–prizes for best dressed pet, largest pet, smallest pet, and many more categories!


August ??


August 16   7:00pm – 8:00pm
Karaoke for Kids!
Come rock out with us.


August 25   4:00pm – 5:00pm
Bring a book you’d recommend (or two, or three…) and leave with something new (or two, or three…)! 


The Storyteller | 925 284 3480 | 30 Lafayette Circle | Lafayette | CA | 94549


Writing Prompts:

1.  You have a very funny pet.  What is it?  Create the most unique pet in the world.  Describe it.  What does it do, that no other pet in the world can do?  Take it to the Peculiar Pet Parade!  What other pets march and perform?   Be wacky and wild!

2.  Use the characters in Harry Potter to write a new chapter of your own.

3.  Create Wacky Doodle art!

4.  The fire alarm just rang.  Write a story from the 

a.  fire’s point of view  

b. the fire engine’s point of view   

c.  a person trapped in the fire  

d.  a rescuer going into the fire