Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Too Much, Too Little Christmas?

Christmas: a time of excess...

Too much food, too much drink.  Too many parties, too many relatives.  Too much money spent and too many useless gifts received.

But then...

A brightly lit tree viewed from a dark snowy lane; a cup of hot cocoa warming shivering hands; an old Christmas song filling the heart with joy; young faces dazzled by early morning treasures; old hearts thundering with love and pride for a house filled with thier kin, thier blood.

Christmas: it is enough.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2011: Solving Problems Right Here, Right Now

I'm going to help you. That's right, I'm going to solve all your problems right here, right now.

I'm going to make this next year the most stress free, joy-filled period of your life.  

I'm going to ensure you exceed all your 2011 goals, both personally and professionally.

I'm going to have your dishes washed, the laundry folded and put away, and the blinds cleaned.

I'm going to have a balanced meal on the table at five o'clock every day, and put a yogurt in your lunch bag.

I'm going to give you a pat on the back when you need it and a high five when you least expect it.

I'm going to be that voice in your head that says, "Yes, you can!"

Who am I kidding?
Okay, so there's no way I can really do all that.  Not for you.  But maybe I can do it for myself.  And if I can for myself, then maybe you can do it for yourself.

Its at least worth a try, don't you think?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Invite To An Imaginary Christmas Party

I'm throwing an imaginary Christmas party and you're invited. 

The best people are there: Jimmy Stewart, Burl Ives and even little Natalie Wood.  And you, of course.

Holiday music from Percy Faith, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis fills the air with a festive note. Guests gather around a tuned piano ready for a group sing along.

A blazing fire burns off the winter chill and cups are filled with Christmas cheer.  Hung mistletoe catches everyone unawares and quick embarrassed kisses are given.

Peace and love and harmony fill the house and all within it.  When Tiny Tim says, "God bless us everyone," there's not a dry eye to be found.

Then the Grinch and Scrooge and Randy Quaid all show up drunk, trash the party and ruin everything. 

But hey, thanks for coming.  Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Be Creative. Write Something.

And so it began, words to paper: my first story.  Two really.  A class assignment from my sixth grade teacher.  Be creative, were her words, write something.

And so I did.  Quickly, pure adrenaline and emotion, I poured my twelve year old heart out onto lined notebook paper.  The stories?  I don't remember the first one.  But the second one,  how could I ever forget?  Pulitzer material had never been created by one as young as I. 

It was about a monkey using a banana like a telephone.  He used the banana to call down the tree to order (you guessed it) - more bananas!  It was, in short: BRILLIANT.  ASTOUNDING.  BREATHTAKING.

I wasn't the only one who thought it was the greatest thing ever put to paper.  My teacher chose my stories, both of them, to read to the class.  This was unheard of.  Both stories?  And from me, the new, misplaced southern girl in an Oregon classroom.

The reaction from my classmates?  Let's just say I still get thank you letters all these years later.  That monkey story really changed peoples lives.  Made them sit up and take notice of the world with wider eyes and an open heart.  Made them rethink everything they'd ever thought about anything and everything.

Well, maybe it didn't have that kind of an impact.  Maybe they only laughed at my monkey's antics.

But my stories were transformative, for me.  I'd found the thing I was good at and it instilled a belief in me that I have to this day. 

I'm meant to write.

This seed planted in 1980 has grown within me and is even stronger today than when it was planted.  It has given me a certitude in life, a purpose, one that I still dedicate myself to, some days more easily than others.

On those days when it does not come so easily, I think of that monkey with his banana to his ear saying, "Hello, hello?" and I know that I am still on the right path, even now when I am the misplaced southern girl in Iowa.

Thus my humble beginnings are revealed.

And you, avid reader?  How did it begin for you?  What are you great at and when did you discover this?  How has it impacted your life?

I'd really like to know.  I'm looking for new ideas to steal.  Who knows, you might become my next great monkey story?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Author Image, To Thine Own Self Be True!

Hey, that’s me, right there in the picture looking all Danielle Steele with my coiffed hair and spiffy duds and spangly necklace hanging low.  Looking all polished and manicured and sedate.  Looking all adult-like.

This is my official 'Author' picture taken for the jacket of a one of my books.  This is the image potential readers will have emblazoned in their minds for all posterity.  Author images say so much and I truly want to give a true representation of myself.

Only the picture above is not really me. 

I mean, where’s the big glopping chocolate ice cream stain down the front? What happened to my raccoon tail hair? Where has my chin disappeared to? And can that sweater get any greener and the background any redder?

As disturbing as it is, the following picture is a more accurate representation of myself.

Scary, I know (at least I cropped out my new found jelly roll).

So maybe such a 'realistic' image isn't the thing to present to prospective readers.

So what to do? I’d like a picture that represents my true self without making me look like Danielle Steele or Charlize Theron in the movie Monster. 

I'm looking for the middle ground, a picture that says smart, fun, and a bit dangerous. I think I have it. Check it out.

This picture has it all:
  • smart because I have a book in my hand,
  • fun because I’m hiding playfully behind the book, 
  • and a bit dangerous because my shoulders are bare and I could contract skin cancer.
I feel this is the best possible picture for me.  But you be the judge. Which picture you prefer?

Also, if you suddenly became a world famous chef, or actor, or notorious killer and had to plaster your face all over the world, which route would you take?  Icy, clean professional or bare-boned, raw realism?  Or would you take the middle ground?

Leave a comment and let me know.   

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Idabel But Were Afraid to Ask (for good reason):

1. Yes, I am probably the greatest writer named Idabel Allen featured in this blog.
2. No, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was not based on my life. At least, not all of it.
3. Yes, I've memorized witty comebacks for future NPR Fresh Air interviews for my books.
4. Yes, I dreamed Tammy Wynette agreed to let me write her memoir. SCORE!
5. No, I don't believe ebooks will kill traditional books. But I DO believe video killed the radio star (:
6. Yes, my favorite poem is There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury from The Martian Chronicles.
7. No, I have never dressed in character and recited entire passages of Beloved. Okay, maybe 4 times.
8. Yes, the name Idabel comes from the Truman Capote novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.
9. No, despite rumors, I am not Flannery O'Conner or Eudora Welty incarnate. I just like to think I am.
10. Yes, I need more cowbell.