According to book marketing guru, John Kremer, yesterday was, among other things, International Moment of Laughter Day, and Go Fishing Day. On a beautiful day like yesterday, it was easy to do both, although it is not quite fishing season here yet (too cold for me anyway).
Laughing is something I do a lot, something that has gotten me in trouble throughout my life. At home, in school, church, elevators, at corporate meetings, I mean no harm, but paired with certain individuals, (like my sister and some close friends) it is a recipe for disaster. Many a seating arrangement has been changed to prevent prolonged outbursts from occuring. I used to think this was a bad thing, something that might require a stint at LA, Laughers Anonymous. But now I see laughing as a great way to get through the times when things just aren’t going my way. As an artist, and a writer, constantly subject to the whims and opinions of others, laughing at my own mistakes, and occasionally the bizarre comments of others, is very therapeutic.
This ability to laugh at myself comes in handy when I do dopey things. I recall, about seven years ago, entering my first short story in a writing contest sponsored by Calliope: A Writer’s Workshop by Mail, titled, The Rabbits Who Saved Christmas. Imagine my surprise when upon going to my PO Box, I found that not only had I received an Honorable Mention for that story, but one from the Writer’s Digest Competition for a story called, Forty Anyway. But my excitement was briefly squelched when I saw that the word “Who” in the first story had been crossed out, replaced by “that” with an editorial comment, “Who is for humans.” I was mortified!
The story has a happy ending, as the Rabbit Story was published, along with two others in the course of two years. Editors Sandy, and Cynthia over at www.calliopewriters.org are two reasons why I stuck to my writing. With their helpful insight, and editing, they gave me, a novice writer, my first audience. Calliope offers a writer’s workshop by mail, and on-line, creating a forum where writers of all levels “can learn about their craft and see their work in print.” I highly recommend them. If you use google or Bing and type in my full name, I believe you can still read a short story I wrote for kids titled, I Blamed it on the Birds, that was published on their site.
Last week, my six-year old niece Mia came to stay with us (Mia turned seven yesterday) for a few days. Mia is a kid after my own heart, crazy about dogs, and she loves to write. She promptly filled up a Manuscript Pad I purchased for her on her arrival. The first short story she wrote for me of course was titled, The Dog Who Ate Too Much (you know the ending of that story). You know I had a private moment of laughter. When I told her that the title should be The Dog That Ate Too Much, she frowned and said it didn’t sound right, and didn’t change it. Good for her! She’s right, it really doesn’t sound right, especially if you are an animal lover.
Later that day, as we walked (Who)ooper – whoops Freudian typo- for her third walk, we came upon a neighbor of mine who told us she had just returned from Colorado where she had the pleasure of hearing Temple Grandin speak, and had the author sign her copy of Animals Make us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. Just briefly, if you are not familiar with her work, Temple, diagnosed with autism as a toddler, went on to become a scientist and writer, ultimately improving the conditions at slaughter houses across America, advocating for the more humane handling of livestock. Temple credits her autism for allowing her to understand the way animals of all kinds navigate their environment through the use of visual clues. I haven’t read the book yet, but a reviewer noted that in this book, Ms. Grandin does address the care of dogs stating, “too many dogs are alone all day with no human or dog companions.” That is something I witness in my own neighborhood daily.
Yes, animals do make us more human, in many ways, and sometimes you can’t blame those people who try to make animals more humans (although I don’t think they are the better for it). With all the money we spend on them with toys, parties, food, etc., all they really want is us. Even Will Judy, founder of National Dog Week confessed back in 1949 that he talked to his dogs. Judy even believed the only thing that kept the dogs from “talking” back was their lack of “an alfabet and thumbs.” But Judy did appreciate the times when he sat and communed silently with his canines. Perhaps more people should take his lead.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of subbing for a Fifth Grade class (ah, 10-year olds in Springtime). At recess, I asked one girly why she had received five minutes off her recess time, or as I often put it, “What are you in for?” She replied, “for laughing too much!” I could relate, but I wisely resisted telling her that it was International Moment of Laughter Day (they really don’t need more ammunition). A shout out to all the good work those teachers, para professionals, and the administration do over at Midstreams School in Brick, New Jersey, a place I have come to know well over the past few years!
Additional note: Happy Birthday to my nephew Gabe up in Cambridge, NY. Gabe turns twelve today and he is quite the writer, too. A talented lyracist, I hear he writes some mean hip hop verses (there’s one about shopping at a thrift shop, I believe) making him the hit of his class. Rock on pal!