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THE DOG ~ [contest piece for #50PRECIOUSWORDS 2021]


Author and friend Kathy Halsey turned me on to author Vivian Kirkfield’s #50 Precious Words Contest – a story for kids in 50 or less words. I thought I’d have a go. 

This is basically a true “tail” of my dogged determination to get a furry friend, pitted against my mom’s dogged determination to not allow – or love it.

THE DOG
by
Bonnie ‘fireUrchin’ Lambourn

I begged, “Pleeeeze!  Let me.  I NEED a dog.”
Four years.
Daily.
HOURLY.

The relatives prodded . . .
nodded.

Reluctantly Mom caved,
but her eyebrows twisted like cheese curls
at the black mop with legs and wagging tongue –  
who then skulked to the corner.
40 minutes sulking.

Earned . . .
a bowl of food. 

[wc= 50 words ]

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What is it about picture books that keeps me paddling through the currents?

Right now, the currents are getting this new website set up. My old one was no longer editable, so had to face that struggle of facing this… and while it is a simple setup for many, I’m a “pantser”. Picture book people know that means I jump in and face the waves rather than read loads of instructions.

As an artist, prior teacher and dancer, I’ll validate myself by saying – I’m a kinesthetic, visual, learner. Even if I read directions and follow them to the letter, and get it right first time around… I remember what I wade through better. Eventually I’m a swimmer who will save myself from the wild wave… but right now…. this blog post is a mostly a test to see if it lands in the right spot.

©bonnie lambourn / fireUrchin ~ 2021

Shifts from Story Storm – and being from a displaced tribe

I’m not trying to share everything I have found inspiring this year engaging daily with Story Storm 2022, but this one feels a bit vulnerable – so it feels worth sharing.

Funny, I found myself writing a draft inspired by a Storystorm post this week – that was so simple. It was about finding a random word in a dictionary that jumped out at you.

I am presently holed up in a hotel – displaced by a disastrous water pipe flooding in my apartment building. But I had managed to go back and get my desktop out, and keep at this, and maintain some semblances of my world between the chaos and the crummy days that hurt. So I used a random verb generator, then brainstormed as directed, and somehow a first draft was born about a visit to Grandma for lunch / Bubbe’s Bagels n’Nosh – with Yiddish words sprinkled in. Not sure I can make it work. It’s been a long time since Yiddish words were part of my daily life, so I’ll need to check on spellings and such, but it felt like a home far removed from my present life but still there.

I’ve been torn about whether or how to share that part of my upbringing and life – my beliefs have traveled outside of religion, while my culture remains part of me – now mixed in with any other parts.

I think there are many individuals and families as well similar to me, that don’t fit in neat boxes of identity, with lots of intersectionality happening.

Various days of Story Storm posts have also got me to thinking more about how to sprinkle the life that is easily invisible into some of my stories or characters within.
My desire and attempts for decades has been to represent the diversity of kids I’ve known in my life, had in my classes, loved and feel were practically invisible in children’s books. My ideology and idealism remains to share the vision of the world I wish to be – but one book can’t do it all.

My biggest problem is those boxes. I respect every person’s choice in how they identify, as well as he myriad of possibilities that may have sourced and influenced their lives to make them a rich melange, but not the sort of melting pot idea that was taught when I was a kid. That melting pot idea was an attempt to assimilate us all into one bland porridge, and it didn’t work anyway.

My father’s desire to be accepted as a white person in a white society was as strong as his desire to be a proud Jew, and as strong as his desire to live free. It makes sense, because he came over from a closed town in the Ukraine overrun by pogrom violence at age 11. He went to school till 5th grade barely and went to work at age 14 sweeping in the sweat shops of the NYC garment industry to support his mom and two little sisters. A story similar to many others, just as my maternal grandfather was a tailor who brought over 15 families. Poor or rich, they all faced similar displacements.

I know my present displacement is nothing compared to theirs, and it isn’t even my first one. Even if I pass for white, even though they stamped white on Jewish passports later on, perhaps to help protect us from harm, I choose to identify the way it feels is more true in every way to me. Yes, I understand white privilege, and that it doesn’t;t matter if I had many challenges and hardships in my life. I do not deny that society afforded me these – though on a few pointed occasions when someone found out I was from a Jewish family the tide turned, it was rare.

It is in part because I was born here that it is urgent we disclaim white status, and the use of defining people by the color labels of a construct which divides and pits groups of people against one another, to allow those with money and power to hold down the rest, and those they have done in this country the longest being at the greatest disadvantage and trauma.

I grew up feeling and seeing the unfair partitions. I was very clear at a very young age that while my father, aunts and grandparents found some niche to survive threat, fear and trauma, exchange it for survival and opportunity to work hard, they were given at least some grace of acceptance by most and freedom to work hard and do better. They did not get immediate stares in most surroundings,

Yet I felt the feelings of separation, being of a lower class, and competitions I had no clue or desire to engage with. . . I did not want to be in a race.

But stealth is not a place that fits or feels comforting. I didn’t put down one part of me only to trade it for another group. I found various beliefs and interests, skills and talents, and things I find difficult but important, and discovered some that just don’t fit who I am.

As I age, I am finding more ways to share all the parts of who I am to those who don’t bother to ask, and extend how I am seen. I don’t want to be in a box, or even in 7 different separate boxes. I might like it if I could have 7 different “earth suits”, but I have only one.

As I write and draw I am thinking about the words, and the holidays, the foods and people who are still part of my life, and ways to not withhold them, and possibly intertwine them the way I wish it to be.

2022 storystorming

I started off Storystorm as I did last year – excited – then deflated – feeling a bit uninspired by new ideas. I should have remembered from 2021. That feeling got a huge reboot back to excitement after a few days.

Quickly a day arrived where ideas bounced against the next day’s ideas, and against a totally separate book launch event by/for Peter H. Reynolds. I almost didn’t draw the heart along with the authors and artists onscreen. But then came this heart-faced character I really liked.

Suddenly on day 10, I had a first draft along with pages of seeds, word play, doodle and other story ideas – and then a first draft for a PB 2 days before my critique group meeting – who claim it a draft nearly there and worth dummying.

That CG Meeting inspired more bouncing ideas between us, and by me following the very next Storystorm inspiration. I found myself writing most of the afternoon and night. A 2nd PB draft with various days ideas and that character was developed.

Can’t wait to see what is next! 2022 feels like a very good year so far.