Friday, September 12, 2014

Dr. Seuss and the New Job

First of all, welcome to Nina! I am so excited to have you here with us on the Prosers. Your energy and perspective are exactly what I need in my life right now!

Second of all, this has been a crazy, busy, difficult, out of control week. I wrote a post about it on facebook yesterday, and since I'm too tired to write it all again, I'm going to cut and paste it right here:
So many people have asked me this "Melanie, are you OK?" question that I thought I ought to just do a generalized answer. Yes. I'm good. I love this job (I'm a long-term sub for a special education teacher at the elementary school). For the first time in my life, I'm doing EXACTLY the thing I imagined doing when I was in college. I'm teaching a great bunch of kids, and though I don't know how long it will last, I'm grateful for this reminder that THIS is what I want to be when I grow up.

But I also want to be a writer when I grow up, and I hate not having time for it. But what with the (insert really long list of things going on in my life), I haven't had time to write. I know this isn't different than the 7 billion other people on this planet. What's different is my ability to cope, which, judging by how many people have asked me if I'm OK today, is pretty nil.

But you know, some months are just meant to be like that. At the end of this month, I will know things about myself that I didn't know before. God knows what I need, and THIS is it! Not forever, but for now. That knowledge is so strong in my heart that it burns there even when I feel like I'm messing everything up, and missing writing so badly it hurts. So yes, I'm OK. Thanks for asking!
So, with that in mind, I've decided to reblog what is arguably the most popular blog post I've ever tribute to Dr. Seuss:

I used to have One Fish, Two Fish, Old Fish, New Fish completely memorized. I was bizarrely proud of this accomplishment. Every night, my children and I would sit surrounded by a pile of books and read, and read, and read. When it finally came time for One Fish, Two Fish, I would give a little sigh, shut my exhausted eyes and begin:

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish
Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish
This one has a little star.
This one has a little car.
Say! What a lot of fish there are!

This ended up being ironic, since it turns out that Dr. Seuss once wrote, "You'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut." It's true, Dr. Seuss, but sometimes a mom's just GOT to.

The Dr. Seuss book I read the most often was probably There's A Wocket In My Pocket. It wasn't because it was the best, but because it was the shortest. It was perfect for those days when I wanted to be a good mom and read to my kids, but I wanted to be finished in under five minutes. J

My youngest son was obsessed with Dr. Seuss. We "searched high and searched low" for every Dr. Seuss book ever written--even the 500 Hats of Batholomew Cubbins and Thidwick, The Big Hearted Moose. My youngest is gifted mathematically, and I think it was the mathematical side of him that was pulled to the cadences of Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss wrote most of his books in anapestic tetrameter, which is composed of two weak beats followed by one strong, like this:

On the FIFteenth of MAY in the JUNgle of NOOL in the HEAT of the DAY by the COOL of the POOL. (From Horton Hears A Who).
Seuss generally maintained this meter quite strictly, until late in his career, when he no longer maintained strict rhythm in all lines. The consistency of his meter was one of his hallmarks; the many imitators and parodists of Seuss are often unable to write in strict anapestic tetrameter, or are unaware that they should, and thus sound clumsy in comparison with the original."
He also wrote in trochaic tetrameter, (an arrangement of four units each with a strong followed by a weak beat) or it's opposite, iambic tetrameter (an arrangement of four units each with a weak beat followed by a strong.)

ONE fish TWO fish RED fish BLUE fish (trochaic tetrameter)

My HAT is OLD. My TEETH are GOLD. I HAVE a BIRD I LIKE to HOLD. (iambic tetrameter)

The first book Dr. Seuss ever published was To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, and it was rejected 27 times before it was finally accepted by Vanguard Press. Isn't it nice to know that even someone as obviously gifted as Dr. Seuss wasn't universally admired the moment he jumped into the writing scene? Just like us!

Advice for writers from Dr. Seuss:

"We throw in as many fresh words as we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don't always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it alive and vital. Virtually every page is a cliff-hanger--you've got to force them to turn it." (A Writer Teaches Writing, by Donald Murray)

"You can fool an adult into thinking he's reading profundities by sprinkling your prose with purple passages. But with a kid you can't get away with that. Two sentences in a children's book is the equivalent of two chapters in an adult book.

For a 60-page book I'll probably write 500 pages. I think that's why it works. I winnow out." ("Dr. Seuss's Green-Eggs-and-Ham World," by Judith Frutig)

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” 
Dr. Seuss

“I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.” 
Dr. Seuss

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” 
Dr. Seuss

“If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” 
Dr. Seuss

 “You can get help from teachers
 But you are going to learn 
A lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room. 
All alone! Whether you like it or not, 
Alone is something you'll be quite a lot!” 
Dr. Seuss
, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” 
Dr. Seuss

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” 
Dr. Seuss
, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“If you want to catch beasts you don't see every day, 
You have to go places quite out of the way, 
You have to go places no others can get to. 
You have to get cold and you have too get wet, too.” 

“Fame! You'll be famous, as famous as can be, with everyone watching you win on TV, Except when they don't because sometimes they won't..” 

“You have to be a speedy reader because there’s so so much to read.” 
Dr. Seuss
, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

 “If things start happening, don't worry, don't stew, just go right along and you'll start happening too.” 
 Dr. Seuss

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