Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Me in My Books

I got myself a son... a two-year old son to be exact.  Why is his age so important you might ask? This just happens to be his own, personal cave man peak. He cries and screams, "No, never!" when offered ice cream. (Ice cream people! I have often wondered if he is really my son.)  He hits his chest and yells, "MINE!" at least four times an hour. While I know that much of this is developmentally appropriate, the intensity of these recent bouts of the "terrific twos" has really got me thinkin'.






Disclaimer: Participant above is a child actor. Real tantrums were too dangerous to be captured on camera. Picture was taken by a professional. Do NOT try this at home.


While I have always dreamed that I would be the parent that would combat gender stereotypes with my progressive parenting ideals, I can't help but wonder if it is a lost cause. From the five month anatomical ultrasound, monster trucks and dinos, trains and baseballs seemed to pour into our lives just as quickly as the squeals and yelps for joy echoed in from the speakerphone as we called our loved ones on the car ride home from the appointment on that fateful day.


We were having a boy. Preserving the family name. Rough and tumble sports. Hanging from the rafters....We were surely in for it, right?

Not if I could help it.


I was convinced that my son would be gentle and sweet. That those weren't necessarily in-utero kicks. I mean, they could have just as easily been jazz hands, right?!  Hey, my son was going to be whoever he was, not who he was pressured to be.  No assumptions allowed. No way.


Right....


Well folks, laugh as you will. As I sat yesterday morning playing "doll house" with my son, watching him wipe out the entire colony of freaky dolls with his garbage truck and half-chewed, plastic dino, I thought, why fight it? Let's look at his record over the past six months: Black eyes, questionable broken nose, stitches. Yeesh!

My son is....a boy.

So, I hereby give up. I won't fight it anymore, BUT I will question it. I will also subtly encourage other families to question it too through what else, but my picture books!


Last week, I was BLOWN AWAY that my pitch won the Would You Read It? contest on Susanna Leonard Hill's wonderful blog. (One of the bestest resources for picture book authors out there.) Up against some pretty stiff competition, my pitch was sent to editor Erin Molta for critique. Yay! Inspired by the need to define the nuts and bolts of the storyline for the pitch, I have really started to analyze my other manuscripts.
  
While my contest pitch was about synchronized swimming elephant calves turned ballerinas, (VERY intense), my other two finished manuscripts are intended to be boy books. A  Facebook post I read yesterday, The 22 Rules of Storytelling, According to Pixar,  inspired me to analyze a little deeper, to look at why I read what read  and why I write what I write. More specifically:

 "Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it." 


 (Isn't that AWESOME?! I am seriously considering getting some kind of semi-permanent tattoo of this.)


So immediately I thought of my manuscripts and my favorite picture books and realized that for me personally, what I like in them, what is me, is feeling that life is all about doing whatever your little heart wants to do, no matter what gender you have been assigned, how much you weigh, or how smart your high school algebra teacher thinks you're not. Whether you are an elephant who wants to wear a tutu or a tough cowboy who loves to cuddle, this is the common thread that connects the themes of the stories I like to write.


My stories are me fighting those battles that in real life, seem a little more difficult to win.



So I ask you this: Look at your work. What are your stories about? What part of you do you see in your favorite books or manuscripts? I bet you'll find it interesting. =)

28 comments:

  1. So...I guess I like the dark side, because my stories have a touch of film noir and absurdism and weird little characters. Hmmm. Great food for thought, here!

    And I think they were definitely jazz hands, Elizabeth. I know this because I have two two-year-old boys, and one is for sure a pianist (he's got the fingers!) and the other is for sure a dancer (he's got the feet!). They just don't know this yet because they are too busy staging massive car accidents and free-falling from the couch...

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    1. A dark Dr. Suess! Love it. =)

      Thanks for backing up my jazz hands theory! I think we are on the same page. =)

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  2. Being yourself, is so one of my themes, Elizabeth, both for my stories and my life!

    This is a contagious post, and congrats again on your awesome picth!!

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    1. Joanna, isn't being yourself just the best?!

      I love that you think this was a contagious post. That is quite possibly one of the best compliments I have received in a long time! Thank you so much for your support!

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  3. Congrats on the pitch contest win, Elizabeth!

    "22 Rules" is thought provoking. I highly recommend it. Our stories are a bit of us or life experiences of some sort. Amazing isn't it!

    I believe in the Universe and being yourself. I like being loud. I enjoy the quite times.
    My characters are spunky. I like stories with a twist. [Does that make me a twisted sister :~D]Those that make you laugh, cry and tug at your heartstrings.

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    1. Hi there critique buddy! Thanks so much!

      22 Rules was a great read. I think you hit the nail on the head when you described your characters...SPUNKY! And they are quite twisted, in the best way possible. =)

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  4. Great post, Elizabeth! I have a son, too, now 6. Anything with wheels still mesmerizes him. Yes, the Pixar post was thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing what you got out of it!

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    1. What is with the wheels? It is just hard wired! =)

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  5. Hi Elizabeth, my stories tend to be about resisting the urge to become a conformist and do what others tell you to do. Huh...is that why my 9-year-old doesn't listen to me?! I am apparently leading by example :) Congrats on winning the contest pitch!

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    1. Ha! Kim....I must say that I have a outspoken daughter as well. I think that will be a good thing later, right?!

      Thanks so much for your support!

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  6. Love this post! I am going to take a closer look at why I write! No telling what I'll discover about myself!

    Loved your pitch---congrats on winning :•)

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    1. Seriously Penny. It is like a psychology experiment. Really interesting stuff. =) Thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement!

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  7. LOVE THIS: "Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you."

    That is why I love Knuffle Bunny (one and "Too") so much!

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    1. Corey...isn't that statement wonderful?! It blew me away. I think I have learned that I am a middle grader at heart. A lifer so to speak. =)

      So, Knuffle Bunny, huh? Those are some great books. What about those Three Ninja Pigs? =)

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  8. I've had 3 boys. Two are very MANly and the 3rd walks to the beat of his own drum. Each one owned a baby doll when he was little. Now they are grown and wonderful to spend time with.

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    1. That is what it is all about. =) Thanks Brenda for sharing.

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  9. "Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it."

    I love this and it can be applied to everything in life, not just writing or illustrating. What do you love about what you do? Why does it call to you?

    Congratulations on winning the pitch contest. It was well deserved!

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    1. Isn't that quote great?! I agree, it can be applied to so many areas of our lives. Thank you so much for your continued support Heather. You. Are Awesome. =)

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  10. What a terrific post! I guess the phrase "boys will be boys" is not an understatement. Hang in there!
    As for stories- my nursery rhyme extensions tend to be about perseverance, the ups and downs of life, misadventures but happy endings. That pretty much sums up my early years. I look forward to reading that 22 Rules article!

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    1. Thanks Iza! Misadventures with happy endings...sounds IDEAL!

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  11. Great post! Now that you (and Pixar)mention it, many of my stories are about being afraid of things... That is so ME - not in a good way! Ugh!

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    1. But, if you write about it, then you are facing your fears in a certain sense, no? Or your characters are. Way to go! Thanks Genevieve!

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  12. Wonderful post! I still haven't had a chance to read that pixar post but now I'm definitely going to - it sounds very interesting. I love your elephant ballet book - I hope you'll pursue it and send it out! And my son is also a boy, but now that he's older he's learning to cook and he loves music and is a fantastic musician, so some of those other qualities have snuck in even though he also plays football and wrestles :)

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    1. Yay! Thanks Susanna! I'm happy to hear about your son. I think mine has a pretty good chance of growng out of his cave manisms. My husband is awesome. Like your son he cooks and is a muscician, plus he's a sensitive man...as well as a sports fanatic and daredevil skateboarder. YIKES! Either way I'm lucky because my little guy is still pretty loveable! =)

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  13. Great post, will be reading it again...and again!

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    1. Thanks Julie!

      The Pixar tips are definitely worth multiple readings! =)

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  14. I LOVE THIS POST. Go on, girl. You are amazing. And your boy....hilarious!

    :) Carter

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    1. I LOVE THAT YOU LOVE THIS POST! =) Yay! Thank you so much for reading Carter. YOU are awesome. =)

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