Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Some May Day Encouragement

There’s an old-fashioned custom on May Day—May 1—of leaving a bundle of flowers on someone’s door step anonymously.  You know, to welcome spring and give someone a little boost with a pleasant surprise.

As a kid, some friends and I did this. Once. Where we got this idea, I don’t know because May Day probably hasn't been celebrated since before the Titanic sank. I’m sure somebody’s mom or grandmother suggested it as a way of channeling our energy toward better ends. It may surprise you to learn that as a kid I was far more likely to have left a flaming bag of poo on someone’s porch rather than bunches of flowers.

In retrospect, it troubles me to think about where we got the flowers for our May Day flower delivery because it's possible--nay, likely--that we plucked the flowers from the gardens of the recipients themselves. So instead of being pleasantly surprised by a basket of flowers, we were laying the dead blooms of someone’s prize flower garden on their door step: (“My beautiful tulips! Who would do such a cruel thing to an old woman?”)


If it’s true that it’s the thought that counts, then we did no lasting damage and maybe even accomplished our goal: we gave someone a nice treat in celebration of spring.

And so, in the spirit of May Day, I’m going to give you a bundle of flowers now. You know, to give you some encouragement as you work. Writers need encouragement to keep going just like the sun needs a constant, unending, neurotic supply of hydrogen to keep shining. 

A few weeks back, my kiddos were changing the channel on the TV, and they came across an old episode of a show called Oswald. It’s not in production anymore and hasn’t been for a long time. As is the case with most kids’ shows, unless they become mega-hits, like SpongeBob, they run their course after about two or three seasons and then that’s it. So a show your kids watched when they were 3 or 4 vanishes from the airwaves about the time they’re ready to stop watching it anyway. Actually, I think by the time my kids watched it, it was already off the air and they were seeing re-runs even then.

But, of course, now that there are a dozen Nickelodeon channels, I guess they need something to fill up their programming schedules and so Oswald got pulled out of the vault and lives to air another day.

My kids, in a fit of nostalgia, shouted, “Oswald! I remember that show!” and wanted to watch an episode. As the credits were rolling, I happened to notice who was listed as that particular episode’s writer. Who was it, folks?

Suzanne Collins.  

Yes, THAT Suzanne Collins. She used to write for a variety of kids TV shows, and while writing for Nickelodeon is hardly an ignominious job, writing Oswald episodes was not exactly the Big Time, either. I mean, the plot line for most Oswald episodes is something like, “Oswald goes to the park for a picnic. Complications arise.”

Point is, back in 2001, when she was writing about Oswald’s trip to the corner store to buy a pack of smokes, or whatever he was doing, Ms. Collins probably didn't even dream about the success she was going to have one day with The Hunger Games 

So that’s my bundle of flowers for you today, writer friends.

No matter who you are or what stage you’re at in your writing career, always remember that a great story is nothing more than a lot of hard work away.

Happy May Day, everybody! Now get cracking on that manuscript.