Sunday, March 22, 2009
"OH, THE THINGS YOU CAN THINK!"
If anyone had a handle on how delightful the world can be when you allow imagination to take charge, it was Theodore Suess Geisal, more commonly known to the world as Dr. Suess. Most of us at one time have been delighted by or delighted a child by reading one of the 44 books he wrote and illustrated, or perhaps watched one of the eleven children's television programs based from his work, or if you are very lucky, perhaps you've seen the Broadway musical, "Suessical," or enjoyed the recent full-length motion picture, "Horton Hears a Who." (Rumor has it more full length Dr. Suess book-to-films are on the way!)
Despite the fact that Dr. Suess is primarily a "children's author" it can be said with out a doubt, his legacy in books (which I boast of having at least half of and I bet you do, too) continues to inspire and fuel the imaginations of folks from the 5 to 95!
For the past three months, I have had my imagination fueled, my feet worn to a frazzle, and my heart swelled with the pride in assisting as costumier, set and prop design for our high school spring musical production of "Suessical!"
It was a collaboration of creativity from the art teacher who painted the backdrop, to the musicians coordinating the music , a young dance instruction teaching upteen sets of choreography for over a dozen songs, to a vocal music director learning to conduct his first "pit " orchestra and give stage direction simultaneously. It was the first time I had taken the role of putting together costumes and props for a cast of over thirty-two young high school thespians(and one junior high fill-in) Of overseeing three of those actors performing in duel roles (hence costumes changes on the head of a pin timing) and set design that included manuevering around a large rectangle opening center stage where the pit was parked!
Two to three hours a day(sometimes more) collectively, solo and small ensemble, these students spent learning music, spoken lines and choreography for this show. Last week they performed starting Monday for elementary students( the easy crowd) and Wednesday for the high school students( their peers- the toughest crowd.) And every one of these students maintained homework, work, other sports and life in general outside of all of this. If that isn't a lesson in tenacity, I don't know what is.
So what has this experience got to do with writing, you ask? Sure, the guy was a famous childrens author/illustrator, but what has this got to do with writing steamy historical ?
Absolutely nothing if you think of it in boxed-in terms. Everything, if you adhere to one of the musicals most famous musical numbers, "Oh, the things you can think!"
Ted/Dr.Suess and his many quirky, odd little characters were all about imagination. Prompting children to use their imaginations, to think of the potential and possibilities. To think outside the box. And it is no less true as you grow older.
In one scene, Horton the Elephant sits in a tree, guarding an egg for a self-centered wayward bird, while he laments over his lost friends in Whoville, who reside on the precarious side of a thistle that has been stolen and tossed into a patch of thistles. All looks pretty hopeless frankly and the elephant appears to be a bit like a naive putz who allows people to take advantage of his kindness and loyalty.
But there is something in Horton's character, mainly his heart. Gertie, his shy little neighbor bird notices, but no one else. Gerties sees Horton's kind heart, his resilence to stand firm to help those in need, those who can do nothing at all to better Horton's position with the naysayers. But Horton sees beyond that, he believes in his integrity when he says against all odds, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful 100%."
Life is like that sometimes. Writing is no different. Especially when you are stuck in the middle of that book and your characters are arguing with you, your editor wants the manuscript and your husband has placed a picture in your spot at the dining room table. Aside from the contractual obligation,teh externals go to war with the internal beleif of that story inside you. Is it still there? Do I still have what it takes? Will my readers understand this book? Will they love my characters, no matter what?
So here is what I learned (yes,I am always learning...)
It is that belief in that story, the very first seedling-no matter how it grows, how it is pruned, or packaged, or planted--that is the magic that unfolds when a reader opens that book.
"Oh the places you'll go," as Suess would say. When taking potential and possibility as your writing partners, combined with imagiantion and belief in yourself--well, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.
Books are but the gateways to the imagination! A fantastic place where "Anything's Possible!"(also from Suessical the Musical)
So, my thanks to all you readers, all you thinkers who yearn to satisfy your imagination. Who want to be taken to places and meet interesting people and color outside of the box. It is that hunger, in part, that is the inspiration fueling our desire to keep writing our stories.
And further I would encourage that you pass it forward, this imagination of yours;)
Whether to a child, grandchild, whether to a nursing home patient to an elderly person next door. Volunteer to read at your libraries, hospitals, schools and nursing homes. Support national days that celebrate reading, start bookclubs, support your local booksellers.
And should you have opportunity to see a production of "Suessical the Musical" by yourself or with many, I highly recommend it!
Currently, my favorite Suess book is "Horton Hears a Who." (stand to reason since much of the musical is based on this book)
What is YOUR favorite Dr Suess book-either now or then. One winner will be selected from comments to receive five new Dr Suess books to be enjoyed by the Dr Suess fan in your life!
Also, if you are in the neighborhood, stop by Emily Bryan's on Monday! I'm chatting a bit in depth about my characters in DIARY OF COZETTE and talking about my upcoming summer Dark Ages medieval release, TORTURED! Her internet blog address is:
Hope you'll stop in , we'll be giving away copies of Cozette!
Have a wonderful, imaginative day!