Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Blogs of Christmas Redux - Cartoon Classics

Welcome to the 12 Blogs of Christmas!  Last year, some of my favorite bloggers and I got together to bring you 12 blogs filled with holiday magic and cheer.  We enjoyed them so much that we decided to share them with again this year, so be sure to visit everyone, and enjoy the 12 Blogs of Christmas Redux!

Cartoon Classics

What is your favorite Christmas cartoon?  When I think of Christmas, I think of those magical evenings leading up to the holiday when my sister and I settled down to steaming mugs of hot cocoa and Christmas cookies while we watched favorites such as the ones you'll find mentioned here.  

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

Marie Patchen
Stop-motion animation is one of my favorite formats for Christmas cartoons.  I must have been spoiled by all of the good classics: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jack Frost, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and of course, The Year Without a Santa Claus.  Being the huge fan of fantasy and magic that I am, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus quickly took its place among my favorites when it first aired in 1985.  I think it is because it finally confirmed my suspicions that Santa Claus is not only magical himself, but he also rubs elbows with some pretty powerful immortals.  He would almost have to, given the fact that he delivers presents to all the kids in the world in one night.  Not to mention the fact that he's been kicking around the North Pole for hundreds of years.

Mickey's Christmas Carol

Amberr Meadows
As soon as the holidays come around, I'm always eager to see my favorite Christmas cartoons. One that I really love and have watched every year since childhood is Mickey's Christmas Carol. Technically it's a movie, but it's a cartoon movie, so I think it counts for the theme. Naturally, I'm a little old to get all gaga over a child's movie, and that's where my kiddo comes in handy (aside from being a spoiled, precious princess). I can still enjoy all of the classics from my childhood, because I feel it's my duty to pass on the tradition. It's too bad she won't stay young forever, but I'm hoping to enjoy the same things with my future grandchildren. Merry Christmas, everyone!  
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Tasty Traditions to read Amberr's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.  

Frosty The Snowman

Ciara Ballintyne

 I watched this cartoon every year as a kid. So many years later, I can't even tell you what I loved about it. I still remember I hated the greenhouse scene where Frosty melts. But I watched it anyway - maybe kind of like watching Dumbo even though you know he gets taken away from his mother? My brother would do that when he was very little. Perhaps it was the magic hat. I wasn't quite into fantasy when I was heavily into this cartoon, but it wasn't far behind. Clearly I have a magic fetish. Yeah, that must be it.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Decorations That Have ‘Kangaroos In Their Top Paddocks’ to read Ciara's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too

I hated most Christmas cartoons when I was a kid. I became depressed over the fact that the snowman was banished to the North Pole just so he could survive to see another winter. It annoyed me to no end that Rudolph became loved and admired only after Santa found a use for him. I was all but convinced that those little Whos were faking it when they sang around the giant tree in the middle of the square. I mean, come on, who sings loud enough to be heard at the top of a mountain? And when the Grinch doled out that ridiculously oversized slice of roast beast to little Cindy Lou Who all I could think was, “How are all of the Whos going to get a piece of meat when the Grinch is slicing portions that large? Maybe they should get someone who has actually been to one of these celebrations to carve the damn meat.” I did like the Grinch’s facial expressions, though, and also that Grinchy song.
Although there was something in almost every Christmas cartoon that irked me to no end, there was one that made me truly happy - Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too. It is an adorable movie about Winnie the Pooh and all his friends. They write a letter to Santa, asking for items like an umbrella for Eeyore and a single snowshoe to help Tigger bounce in the snow. Unfortunately, the gang gets greedy and spends so much time upgrading the list that the wind changes so the letter has zero chance of making it to Santa. Pooh takes matters in his own hands when he decides to play the role of Santa, since the whole thing was kind of his fault. Sounds awesome, right? If you haven’t seen it yet then get on it!
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Christmas Drinks to read D.C.'s part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Erica Lucke Dean
 Ever since I was a little girl, watching the Christmas specials on TV was an annual ritual. My sister and I would wait on pins and needles as the clock ticked down to show time.  I loved them all, but I will forever have a special place for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and his band of misfit friends.  In fact, it was inevitable each year when something in our stocking wasn't quite right, Mom would tell us it must be a misfit toy. We never complained about the doll that was supposed to talk, but didn't...or the Teddy Bear with a missing nose, because surely Santa brought them to us because we were the special children who would love the misfits as much as if they were perfect toys.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Somewhere In My Memory to read Erica's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Justin Bogdanovitch
Tim Burton is still considered an acquired taste. If you love Tim Burton, you'll see his version of Sweeney Todd, even though Johnny Depp's singing voice has a range from A to B. At this point in Burton's career, and with a lot of help from Depp, he's what Hollywood calls an auteur, someone who can wake up one morning, call a Studio and say, "I'm thinking of remaking Planet of the Apes, with Marky Mark. I'll make it Burtonesque!" And get the picture greenlit. Now, that picture was a head-scratcher, a blip, in Burton's career, but he's allowed to make his films because of the great ones that came before, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, from 1993, is one of those great films. If you haven't seen it, go see it. It's a Christmas cartoon movie adapted by the late, great horror writer Michael McDowell -- if you haven't read his The Amulet, you're missing out -- who also wrote Beetlejuice. Both films written by McDowell had a whimsical beating heart among the kooky characters and fantastical situations. In The Nightmare Before Christmas, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, stumbles his way into Christmas Town and falls in love with the Christmas philosophy and tries to take this back to his minions. Hilarity ensues! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Justin
Please visit Justin to read the 12 Holiday Faux Pas -- Part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas  :-)

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Karen DeLabar
I don't know what it is about the Muppets that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, maybe it’s the fact that they themselves are fuzzy, but every time I see them, I smile. So what more can a Christmas loving girl ask for than her favorite fuzzy puppets putting their spin on the classic A Christmas Carol? I love how they integrated my favorite Muppets into the timeless roles of Marley, Bob Cratchit, etc., and paired with Michael Caine as Scrooge, this rendition is perfect in my eyes. However, I do think Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat (one of my personal faves) steal the show with their sarcastic wit as narrators. Here is one of my favorite songs from the movie (I love when the little caroler gets hit and his face scrunches up... is that wrong?).
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Favorite Holiday Movies to read Karen's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

I'd like to take a moment here to tell you all that it's been a rough year for Karen, who has been battling TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) as a result of a strep infection.  Please visit her here to read about her storyThe good news is, Karen is a fighter and on the road to recovery.  The bad news is that no war is won without casualties, and the family is struggling to recoup its losses, especially financially.  A donation account has been set up to offset the extensive medical expenses that have accrued over the course of Karen's battle.  Please considering donating.  Every bit helps!

The Year Without a Santa Claus
Kelly Stone Gamble
 My favorite is The Year Without a Santa Claus.  I love Heat Miser (maybe it's the flaming red hair) and still can sing every word to his song.  I'm too much. 

Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Books to read Kelly's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Santa's Workshop (1932, Walt Disney)

Maureen Hovermale
Check out the doll getting her hair done on the assembly line. The moment before it gets curled looks like a normal day to me. Lol! 

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas Day!   

to read Maureen's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Melody-Ann Kaufmann
My favorite Christmas cartoon is A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Charlie Brown gets depressed because he feels that Christmas has become too commercial. He wanders through each day of the season seeking some meaning in all of the hustle, bustle, and marketing hype that has become so common at Christmas time.  In the end it is Linus who takes to the stage to share the Christmas story.  Charlie Brown finds that Christmas has exactly the same meaning it always had and that if you look hard enough you can see it is still there.  The whole gang is reminded by Charlie Brown’s perseverance of the Christmas Spirit which they had been too busy to share.  It really is a classic in terms of reminding us to slow down and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.  Sharing what comes from the heart is more important than sharing what comes from the wallet.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Favorite Christmas Toys to read Melody-Ann's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

A Chipmunk Christmas

Natalie Kenney
My favorite Christmas cartoon is A Chipmunk Christmas (Alvin and the Chipmunks). There's something about those squeaky little voices that brings me back to my childhood. I actually had the record (yes, vinyl) of this song and played it over and over until the grooves wore down. And every time I watch the movie, I still want a hula-hoop!

Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Yummy Cookies to read Natalie's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Raine Thomas

 My favorite Christmas cartoon of all is definitely the original Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We used to look up the time it would air every year (waaay back before DVR) and then sit down as a family to watch it. My parents would also read the story to us on Christmas Eve, making sure to imbue it with a similar tone to Boris Karloff. But the cartoon has the song! “You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch...” Classic.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Songs of the Season to read Raine's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

Be sure to visit the rest of the blogs in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.  You can visit by clicking on the link underneath a person's picture or at the end of their cartoon recommendation. 

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Working in the World of Words By Melanie Saxton

Melanie Saxton
I remember as a little girl how those brightly colored refrigerator magnets beckoned, tempting me to figure out the alphabet. Sure, I loved dolls and stuffed animals as well, but always seemed to set them up in a classroom to "teach" them how to read and write.

I didn't fully understand then that I'd become a writer, although I penned little crayon books about whales and dolphins and sold them, instead of lemonade, at a stand at my curb. I suppose that was a prelude to what would be coming, and God bless the neighbors who spent 10¢ on my little masterpieces. How kind of them, and they'll never know how that affected my journey to this very day.

And so I played with poetry, entering contests and going for scholarships. I simply loved writing and did it for free, putting together announcements, handling church newsletters . . . anything to write. People came to me for everything from term papers to eulogies. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I could earn a living from it, even after majoring in English. Being practical, I segued into corporate America, always seeming to gravitate toward positions that included a writing element. Still, writing independently and being published never really crossed my mind.

Magazine writing changed everything. I recall how my hands shook as my first payment came in the mail, the anticipation of opening that envelope making me giddy. Oh my word, I couldn't get to my sister's house fast enough to spill the wonderful news! I was in print! It was a defining moment and one I'll always cherish. Now, without a doubt, I was a writer. The weight of that responsibility registered deeply. It mattered how I wrote, how I pursued each article, and how I treated others in the publishing world. As the assignments came, so did other opportunities. I dipped my toe into it all, becoming a contributing editor, an online editor, a news reporter, and now, a book editor.

I still write for magazines and probably always will, although now I'm especially drawn to high profile and celebrity interviews. I've learned that apart from the glare of the limelight are people, just like you and me, who have their own hopes and fears. That they've achieved something spectacular with their lives is simply the icing on the cake, making them, well, fascinating. I've also become a certified English, Language Arts and Special Education teacher— something that was on my bucket list, tracing back to the dolls and stuffed animals I once tutored. I'm not sure I'll ever teach students full time in a classroom, though. When would I find the time? Perhaps the right school will find me one day, but until then I'm busy working in the world of words!

I've learned so much from my authors, all emerging and all with new and different missives. Editing their books has taken me across many genres and reminded me that I, too, have a novel or two percolating. Taking care of other people's manuscripts, juggling single motherhood, arranging interviews, meeting deadlines . . . well, these are challenges to my own writing. So for 2012 I finally have a resolution I must keep. No weight loss or exercise promises, no vows against fast food or determination to get more sleep. No!

Rather, for the new year I pledge to carve out time to write a novel— a really good novel, and then more. In tribute to those little crayon books from yesteryear, I really feel it's time to come full circle. I should be creating a manuscript and now, taking my cue from talented authors like Marie Patchen, I will.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Am a Writer: A Guest Post by Alexander Diakonis

Alex Diakonis
I am a writer. After all the years I have tried different things: soldier; linguist; cyclist; barista and more, it feels good to say that I have finally accepted what and who I really am.

People can go their whole life not knowing who they are and then, like a bolt of lightning, it hits them. BAM! “That is what I should be doing.”

I wish I was one of those stories, I think it would have been cool.

Not me though. Ever ignoring my father’s advice, I never make things easy on myself. I’ll give you, dear reader, the beginning of this path and some practices which have worked for me.

The year was 1987. My mother had to work and my aunt had a day off, so she was babysitting my younger sister and me. I never was one for Barbies, so I resorted to asking if I could play on the computer. My aunt hesitantly obliged and gave me one of maybe 3 programs available at the time on her Macintosh: word processing.

I started out typing things like my name and things like that. Eventually, though, I crafted a short story about a kid who went to a magical land where personified Dalmatians were walking as bipeds. It was maybe one page in length but I was proud of it. I wanted everyone to come and look at it. It was as if I was a cat that just brought my people a dead bird: Look what I did; it was not easy, but it is for you.

Fast forward one decade and several mistakes in life. I ended up joining the Army. I was proud of that—am proud of that. I was doing something. I was no longer just walking through life like an apparition: trying to get noticed by someone. I loved Service life but I spent most of my time writing letters and journals. It was as if shooting well or running far was rewarded by writing time. It may have been.

Eventually, I received my Honorable Discharge and went home. I got a job as a cobbler (shoe repair). I wrote a lot in those days, too; it was a very slow, boring job. I was still in the perfect job, I just sat and read and wrote my spiritual insights.

My lovely daughter was born during this time and I put the pen down. I worked as a barista and gas station attendant. These jobs put food on the table but little more.

Eventually, I decided that I was going to go to college because, well, that is just what you do. I had no idea what I wanted to do or where it was going to take me, but I went.

I took a first year composition class with Dr. Ali at Oakland Community College. I will never forget the day that she told me that we needed to write a four page essay by the following week. When my five pages were finished and turned in, I waited. The following class period, she gave the papers back and asked me to see her after class. What she told me will stick with me and reverberate through my life. She said that I simply needed to take the conclusion from the end of the essay, add a few more pages to it, and she was willing to accept it for the second-year composition class because I, as she said, am a “natural writer”.

I dropped out of college. I think that was the worst thing I could have done for myself at the time. But, you live, you learn.

Later, I finally heeded the pressure of my father and went back to school. Dad never finished college so it was really important to him that I have a better life. I went back to school and it was during this time when, on his deathbed, he told me to finish school; to promise him that I would go until I was done. I promised him. I graduate this year with a BA in journalism.

I have a BFFF (I’ll let you figure out the additional F) who one year called to tell me about NaNoWriMo. Write 50,000 words in 30 days. I couldn’t see the point of it. I was blinded.

Last November, I was reintroduced to NaNo, this time by my girlfriend. She thought that it was something that we could do together. I ended up with a story in my head and I was frantically writing it.

I do NOT type fast, but I was going as fast as I could. The story wanted out. I obliged the release of the characters from their vaults.

I did not finish it. I will though.

Every day, though I am guilty of not listening to my muse sometimes, I write. Even if it is just to finish a paragraph or one line of dialogue, I write.

I am a writer. I write.

I have a moleskin notebook that I almost always have with me. If I get inspiration anywhere, I jot it down. It might not make it into this story, but who knows?

I have resolved that I will only keep people in the loop about my progresses that actually support me. I have friends who laughed when I told them that I was going to write a novel. I do not talk to them about it.

I am on Twitter A LOT. I have met some awesome writers, editors, publishers and the like there. I heard once that the only way to become a millionaire is to spend time socializing with other millionaires. Want to be a better writer? Spend time socializing with other writers.

If you have a story screaming in your head that you simply need to get written, resolve that you will write it, a little at a time. You need not - and likely will not - finish it in one sitting; but write. If your soul is screaming at you, telling you that you are a writer: LISTEN. Just write. It is what you are and it is what you need to do.

You will feel like I do—complete. -- Alexander Diakonis

Alexander Diakonis
Alexander Diakonis resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his BFFF Danielle and their 3 mutant spider plants. When he is not studying the finer points of journalism at Eastern Michigan University or writing his novel, still a work in progress, he can be found making the best burritos you will ever eat at the local Chipotle Mexican Grill.

As an avid reader he can also be found with a Kindle in one pocket a dog-eared copy of something Sci-Fi in the other. More general musings or thoughts can be found at www.alexdiakonis.com and @alexjdiakonis on Twitter.