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:
http://www.emilybryan.blogspot.com
Hope you'll stop in , we'll be giving away copies of Cozette!


Have a wonderful, imaginative day!
Amanda














18 comments:

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Wonderful post, Amanda, and now you can breathe easy and detox from post susseical stress! lol!

Myself and my brothers must be the only three people in the world who never liked Seuss. I don't know what it was, but my mum tried numerous books, and we never enjoyed it. I do remember clearly, my brother who is the middle child, frowning his little freckled face and stating with a sourness that only a four year old can muster, 'that 'tupid'. lol! He did get in trouble for saying stupid, and my mum just sighed and tossed the book on the bed, and got out the tried and true book, 'Where the Wild Things Are'!

However, his imagination is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and there is no denying the pleasure he has given scores of people, from children to the elderly. I admire him for that, even though I cannot (still) get into his books. Interestingly, my daughter also has never liked his books. sigh...we're weird.

But, you're absolutely correct about imagination, how it should never be wasted. Imagination is like any muscle in our body, the more we excercise it, the more developed and strong it becomes. With use, the imagination will grow and grow and become a thing of beauty, and something that is difficult to be silenced.

Fortunately for me, I do not lack imagination. I lack discipline to write those ideas! lol!

Thanks for the great post, and the cool pics!

Amanda McIntyre said...

Actually, "Where the Wild Things" Are was the twins signature book. Books of every variey have always been a staple at our house. From Suess to the Boxcar children to Michael Crighton and National Geographic.
When I started writing my newspaper articles from home, when the twins were small, I remember making a pallet of blankets, and we'd pretend it was an island of books. They were to lay on the island and read through the books while I was typing up my work.

All of my kids still are ravenous readers and I couldn't be more grateful. My oldest, now a middle school teacher , teaches reading and language arts and delights seeing kids who had never finished a book ever in their lives--ask for another book. Its wonderful.

Beyond the books of Suess, however is the musical score of this production-absoultely delightful and positive in lyric and tone.

The production itself is a celbration of Suess's works certainly, but in the greater picture its all about seeing beyond what is in front of you and seeing the potential in someone or something. What is Horton's famous line? "A person's a person, no matter how small."

Amanda

Barbara said...

What a great post!! Having two little ones I'm very familiar with Dr. Seuss.

I think anyone who can break outside of what is "the norm" and create these worlds of wonder and entertainment, well, they just rock! Whether they are authors of children's stories, science fiction or even romance. The possibilities ane hours of entertainment are endless.

Granted, I have to say, Mike Meyers did scare the crap out of my little one in, The Cat In The Hat (he was kinda creepy), but she loved the book!!

Cecile said...

Wow Amanda, that was truly an awe-inspiring post! There is nothing in the world more precious and powerful than our imagination. And it is free! My 15 yr old daughter is an avid reader; to which I am soo very grateful! I would read to her while I was pregnant with her **grinning, remembering memories**.
My fave Dr. Seuss book of all time is Green Eggs and Ham! He was a stubborn man, but eventually he gave it a try and found out he actually liked it... and isn't that what life is about, trying!
Hope you have a great day!
Love, hugz and smiles!

Charlotte Featherstone said...

The one thing an imagination can bring you, is a few moments of happiness~and all for free! lol!

In our world today with the wars, job losses, and the economic uncertainty it's nice to have the ability to close our eyes and use our imagation to bring us to another place, another time, or become someone else. That escape is what will see us through any troubling times, and it don't cost a thing!

Now, I gotta get inspired to put my bottom in my chair and open up my novella....if only discipline and imagination were linked!

Amanda McIntyre said...

Barb, I never saw the Mike Meyers version of the Catin the Hat or the JIm Carry vesion of the Grinch--guess Im a dyed in the wool Boris Karloff fan of the Grinch ;)
Have you seen the new animated Horton, yet? What a hoot!

I think what I found very entertaining is at the cast party on Saturday at our house, I had stacked all my Suess books for fun on one of the end tables and during the night I saw high school kids rifling through them and reading. Likely the first time in many years they'd picked up a Suess book.
I've told my kids that they can grow up all they want, but reserve always a spot in their lives for that 12 year old imagination-its priceless and truly what I think is the foundation of all creativity that comes after.

Cecile, I read to my kids too and listened to music! LOL Never underestimate the power of such things!

One of the songs in the musical (Green Egss and Ham) is delightful! One of the twins is named Sam,(the one who played Horton, btw) so you can guess what his fav Suess book was.;)

check out the music on itunes! it is delightful!

Amanda

Barbara said...

No, I haven't seen Horton, yet. My daughter has the DVD already and has watched it.

I'll definitely give Horton a shot one of these days.

Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor said...

Let's see if my internet connection will stay long enough for me to comment--(on vacation and the internet is VERY spotty to say the least!).

I loved Seuss as a child--Green Eggs and Ham was my favorite, and I also remember my mother hating that book, LOL! My kids have the entire Seuss collection and they love it, too--they're particularly good books for VERY early readers. I think The Foot Book and Fox in Socks might have been the first books my kids could read themselves.

But yeah...imagination is SUCH a powerful tool. Just trying to imagine a world without some writers' creations is nearly impossible. A world without Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara?? No!! And more recently, a world without Edward Cullen??? I can't even imagine.

But the best thing about imagination is that the possibilities are endless.

anne said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your amazing and lovely post today. I believe that reading is the most rewarding, memorable and delightful experience for children and adults. We can always learn from this cherished pastime. My favorite book would be Cat in the Hat. So inventive and creative to be able to imagine this wonderful experience in a book.

diane said...

When I read your post today it brought back thoughts of years ago when I read Seuss books. Those were the good old days for me. Enjoyable and sweet. Hop on Pop was adorable and very apropos since the boys were young and loved that type of activity. Making time for reading was a big priority which they eagerly looked forward to and loved. Being able to absorb another world and appreciate its beauty is important and should be a daily form of entertainment.

ellie said...

Unique and great post today. Suess has a lot to recommend it, wonderful artwork which cannot be matched, stories that are esceptional and who wouldn't be attracted to these books. My favorite was always Green Eggs and Ham for the unbelievable idea, lyrics, and cuteness of it all. There is so much to like in this uplifting and inspiring book.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Kristi, glad to see you are "connected" (Kristi is on vacay now, *waving*) Have fun!

I have to tell you I finally saw Twilight the other night and can see what all the excitement is about. My oldets daughter is about as ga-ga over Mr Cullen as you ( hard to believe ;) he does have very cool eyes and I love when they turn amber!

Anyone who can get young people to reading again has it going on in my book! Kudos to Stephanie!

Kinda looking forward to the next movie;))

Amanda

Amanda McIntyre said...

Barb, you will laugh yourself silly, make the time! ;))

Ann and Diane, Suess brings back memoires of a much simplier childhood also! Reading, coloring and Board games -chasing fireflies in the summer, and riding bikes WAS the entertainment!

I still keep color books and crayons handy as mental de-stressing therapy! LOL I do manage to stay inside the lines, interestingly for me, but nothing is ever the true color its supposed to be ;))

Ellie, I do agree there is something about Suess illustrations that I have never seen anywhere yet. Mytwo favorite children's book artists-Geisal and Charles Schultz.Absolute genius.

If you enjoy spirited, delightful music-the kind that you find yourself humming weeks after in the middle of the grocery store-- LOL your should give Suessical the Musical soundtrack a try-well worth the smile it brings to your heart!

Amanda

Amanda

ruth said...

The one and only original The Cat in the Hat is a classic which I pored over for years with my two sons. They could never tire of this extraordinary and appealing book. If this can capture childrens' attention then it is worth the time, effort and energy to sit and watch their expressions. My kids grew up when they could bike outside alone, walk to the park, and just go off the hours exploring and playing. I am glad that their are libraries devoted to this wonderful and necessary love. Thanks for this post which reminded me of everything that I believed in.

ranearia said...

Although I loved the Cat in the Hat, it was Green Eggs and Ham that was my all time fave with just a simple lesson: try it before you hate it~

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” - Dr.Seuss

Genella deGrey said...

I, too, am a "Green Eggs and Ham" fan!

Have you read these books aloud lately? The rhythm is so fun!

:)
G.

Devotional music CDs said...

OK, I must catch hold of one of Suess books.

Amanda McIntyre said...

HI Devotional Music CDs , thanks for stopping by!
Elle was our winner for the Suess giveaway, sorry!

The LIT ladies are always running contests of some kind, so please be sure to check back often!

Peace,
Amanda