Thursday, March 22, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Marsha Diane Arnold

Sometimes people leave impressions on you without you ever having to really get to know them too well. Have I ever met this week's Banana Peelin' author in person? Nope. But my interactions with her lead me to believe that she is a kind, gentle, and remarkable human being. Even Blogger sensed this about her. I have never had an easier time formatting the body and pictures for a blog post than I did for today's. All is right with the universe as I introduce this week's guest author, Marsha Diane Arnold...

Peel them, don’t slip on them.

Banana peels hold delicious fruit.  Don’t be afraid of them.  Peel them and enjoy.  That’s my recommendation.

Seriously, we slip on banana peels for two main reasons: we’re too busy to see them in our path or we’re not prepared.  At least two of my banana peel slips are directly the result of these reasons.

The Bookstore Slip

It was a lovely little independent bookstore in San Francisco.   They’d invited me to visit during an already overbooked month, but I was determined to support their store and promote my books.  I’d be returning from two weeks of out-of-state visits, then flying off again the following week, but I was intent on fitting the bookstore into my out-of-control schedule. I arranged my flight to arrive home the night before the bookstore visit. I felt like Wonder Woman.

     I arrived home absolutely exhausted, not feeling like Wonder Woman at all.  The next morning I was so grateful to be home.  I made a cup of tea, walked to my office, and stared at 200 emails awaiting my response.  I started responding.  Half an hour before I was supposed to be reading Roar of a Snore in front of a roomful of children at the bookstore, I stood up and screamed.  I’d totally blacked out the bookstore visit.  There was no way I could make it in time unless I turned into Wonder Woman herself, and I didn’t think that was going to happen.  My face turned red even though no one was around.  I made the call, embarrassed and apologetic. 

What was the reason for this banana peel moment?  No, truly, it wasn’t old age or lack of intelligence.  The reason was I was too busy.  Overbooked. It’s been years since that slip occurred and I still feel guilty about it. 

What to me is overbooked may be a walk in the park to some “energizer bunny” authors.  But that’s not me.  If it’s not you, don’t overbook.  Stay away from that banana peel.

The School Visit Slip

I’ve done lots of school visits over my author career.  Usually I’m well prepared and we have a great time.  But sometimes, after several full days of presentations, my voice starts to waver.  The voice waver was the beginning of this banana peel moment.

Standing in front of a group of 200 4th and 5th graders, I was doing my thing, walking the walk, and talking the talk.  I had a hands free lavalier mic, my favorite.  Sometimes though, even with a mic, the voice breaks down.  I started to cough.  I couldn’t stop. I looked in desperation at the closest teacher and handed her one of my books.  She started reading as I hurried back stage to find my magic cough syrup and get my voice under control.  I must have been back stage a full 40 seconds before another teacher arrived to remind me my mic was still on.  An auditorium full of kids and educators had been listening to me cough for nearly a minute!  Thankfully, I don’t think I cursed between coughs, but even so, it was a definite banana peel slip.  Very unprofessional. 

Truthfully, I might not have been able to prepare for this.  Oh, maybe I could have taken voice lessons or practiced strengthening my voice an hour a day.  But I’d rather spend my time writing.  Maybe I could have been smart and calm enough to turn off my mic.  But I panicked.  If you’re unprepared, you panic. 

So, be prepared.  Stay calm.  Avoid that banana peel slip.

There’s one more slip I feel compelled to share.  It’s the dreaded…dum, da, dum, dum…

Procrastination Slip

There have been many times when I had a wonderful idea for a story, but I didn’t move on it.  It sat in my “story seeds” file or the back of my mind for a month or a year or five years.  I always believed I would get to it “some day”.  Then the day comes when I see “my story” sitting on a bookstore shelf or “my story” winning an award.  Of course, that’s illogical as I may never have been able to pull it off.  Still, it saddens me and it’s all because of procrastination. 

We all have more ideas and more stories than we’ll ever have time to write.  But every so often, we should take the time to consider those ideas and prioritize them.  There might be one that is timely or unique or so compelling that you’ll want to put other projects aside for awhile. This is not to say you should abandon the story closest to your heart.  That story always has priority.

Looking at the procrastination slip from another angle, it may also be true that if you procrastinate and never move at all, you will never slip on a banana.  But if you want your writing dreams to come true, you must risk a bruise or two and move ahead.  Almost all writers endure what feels like a banana peel slip when their precious story is rejected.  Those are slips we must get used to.  We must slip right back up after those rejections and work smarter and write better.  My first book, Heart of a Tiger, was rejected 13 times before I found the editor who loved it as much as I did.  It’s my top award winner now, still in print after 17 years.  So, always pick yourself up and try again.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for inviting me to share my slips. 

I wish you all delicious bananas in pursuit of your writing dreams and very few banana peel slips.

Marsha’s Bio:

The media has called Marsha Diane Arnold a "born storyteller" and a "magician of literary innovations." Her literary pathway began with the much-loved, award-winning newspaper column "homegrown treasures." Soon Marsha was writing for kids' magazines and in 1995 came her first book, Heart of a Tiger, for which she won the Ridgway Award for Best First Book by a New Author.
Other awards include Smithsonian Notable Book for The Pumpkin Runner, Junior Library Guild Selection, IRA Distinguished Book, and state Children's Choice awards for Heart of a Tiger, Kansas State Library's 150 "Best" Books for The Bravest of Us All, Notable Social Studies Book for The Chicken Salad Club, and a Family Choice Award for Hugs on the Wind. Roar of a Snore was twice selected for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and her early reader Quick, Quack, Quick has sold over half a million copies. Her stories have been called "wacky," "whimsical," "inspiring," "beguiling," "heartwarming," "uplifting," "great read-alouds," and "a must-have for all libraries".
When not creating imaginative worlds and wacky characters at her home in northern California, Marsha enjoys traveling the world, scuba diving, and (like her characters) always trying new things. To learn more about Marsha's books or to contact her, visit her website,, or blog,


Thank you SO much Marsha for taking the time to contribute to this series. Between your story and one unforgettable episode of 30 Rock, I don't think I will EVER wear a microphone to present. I would just KNOW that some kind of humiliation would be inevitable!  Best of luck to you!


  1. This was a lovely, honest warm banana-peel moment Thank you so much, Marsha! I feel like the overbooking and procrastination slips are ones I could easily fall on. The latter I haven't thought about at all. By the way, I am well impressed that you spoke to 200 young kids at the same time. That's a large audience to keep animated!

    Can't finish without saying that HEART OF A TIGER is one of my favorite picture books, and I have reviewed it on my blog.

    Ladies thank you for some great banana peel bloopers to teach us!

  2. Marsha, you are just a gem. Thanks for sharing your overbooking one in particular. It truly hit home and yet, still I overbook. Well, I am working on it. Yesterday, in fact, I turned a job down. Feeling proud, and smart and now after reading this, validated. Blessings!

  3. Thanks for a wonderful interview, Elizabeth and Marsha! Overbooking and procrastination are both things I have to watch out for too - and you're so right, neither ends well :) I will have to go find Heart Of A Tiger - it sounds great and I haven't read it yet. Thanks again!

  4. What a wonderful interview. Note to self: Make sure to turn off mic when backstage. Isn't this something our politicians have forgotten before too? I guess everybody slips sometimes. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of the writing life Elizabeth and Marsha.

  5. Guess it says something about my sense of humor but when I read about the coughing fit into the mic backstage, I laughed out loud. Sorry! Hope you can laugh about it now! And you inspired me to get those submissions out there because you are so right about the procrastination slip up-- "if you want your writing dreams to come true, you must risk a bruise or two and move ahead."
    Thanks for sharing, Marsha. Thanks , Elizabeth.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your banana peel moments with us, Marsha! (And thanks, Elizabeth!)

    These are all things I can relate to... and will guard against. I hope.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing your stories, Marsha! It doesn't seem right but reading about others' slip ups somehow makes us feel better and gives us hope!

    Along those lines, I'll try to make you feel better about your school visit slip! I work with deaf and hard of hearing students and their classroom teachers often wear the mics. One of the teachers I worked with went to the bathroom and forgot the turn off her mic! Imagine her embarrassment when she discovered her mistake :-)

    I checked out Roar of a Snore on Amazon - it looks adorable!!

  8. Lori, your books look wonderful. I look forward to reading them. Thanks so much for sharing your banana peel moments. The procrastination slip was my favorite because I am such a procrastinator about turning ideas into stories.

  9. Marsha, Thanks for sharing your stories. They actually sound like nightmares to me. I have a terrible fear of being late. I pretty much drive my family nuts with wanting to be 10 minutes early for everything!

    I like your statement, "it may also be true that if you procrastinate and never move at all, you will never slip on a banana." Elizabeth's blog has taught me that banana peel slips are just part of being an author. I now tell myself that I can't fear a mistake, I just have to go for it!

    Thank you Marsha and Elizabeth!

  10. Thank you for such an honest post. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger! I love what you say about the fruit inside bananas and not to fear them. Wonderful great advice! And I too can't wait to read Heart of the Tiger :-)

  11. Wanted to thank Elizabeth again for inviting me to share my slips with the entire world. Ha. Thanks also to all who responded. I've been out of the country and when I returned and saw your comments I was thrilled and delighted. Glad we all connected.

  12. Thank YOU so much Marsha! Hope you had a great vacation. Will you be attending the Spring Spirit Conference? :)

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