Monthly Archives: March 2013

7 Parenting Lessons From Literature

Hello from the Dogpatch,

Here’s a parenting lesson from 101 Books to which we at the Dogpatch bow down. Major Woofs for this post!

101 Books

Parenting is hard work. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s a well-earned cliche.

Kids are pretty awesome, and they can even teach you a thing or two about reading, but they also have their moments. That’s why, if you want to be a parent, it’s important to make sure you are not a mental whack job.

Mental whack jobs who are parents usually produce kids who eventually become mental whack jobs themselves. This is not good.

Since fiction is often just a mirror of reality, there’s a lot to learn from literary parents, both good and whack jobbish.

Quite a bit, actually. Let’s take at some parenting tips I put together based on lessons I’ve learned from literary parents.

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True Words from Chinua Achebe

“…mediocrity destroys the very fabric of a country as surely as a war — ushering in all sorts of banality, ineptitude, corruption and debauchery,” wrote Achebe…

This observation rings true for all societies, not just Nigeria. It’s one that all writers, all artists, all workers should take to heart. Be wary of “good enough.” Be wary of those who disparage learning. Strive for perfection. Although you will never reach that goal, your work will be far better for the struggle. Rest in peace, Mr. Achebe. You have earned it.

Read more:


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Putting the Egg Together – Writing Picture Books

The fallacy: “Writing children’s picture books should be as easy as, well, cracking an egg from a long drop.”

This fallacy shares a bed with: “It’s only a few hundred words. I can crank that out in my sleep.”

And there’s another hiding under the covers: “I read picture books when I was a kid, and I’ve read them to kids. That makes me an expert.”

Makes for a pretty crowded bed, eh?

Shortly after stripping the bed and exposing these thoughts to the world, writers begin to mutter, “I didn’t know it would be this difficult.” Continue reading


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Collection of Cool

Hello from the Dogpatch!

Noticing a comment online about rereading and rewatching favorite stories, put me in mind of my all-time favorite author appearances caught on video. I’ve watched these clips numerous times and am excited, amused, moved, and inspired at each viewing. I hope you enjoy!

Dagoberto Gilb

Dagoberto Gilb

“Stupid America”: PEN/Hemingway Award winner Dagoberto Gilb speaking and reading at Librotraficante Caravan Tucson AZ:

CoverDrOlafAwesome dramatic readings: A group of actors performing brief text from various works of fiction, including the opening of Dr. Olaf van Schuler’s Brain by Kirsten Menger-Anderson, from Sally Shore’s The New Short Fiction Series:

A true classic: Steve Almond on “Africa” by Toto at Tin House Magazine’s 10th Anniversary celebration:


Steve Almond

You can read Steve’s “Why I Write Smut: A Manifesto” from his latest set of six tiny and gorgeous books called Writs of Passion.

Junot Diaz

Junot Díaz

Wisdom for us all: Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz díscussing his process at the 2009 National Book Festival:

Happy writing,

XO Laurel Leigh


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Write with Respect

Good morning from the Dogpatch, and fair warning: Only read this fabulous and hilarious post from Limebird Writers if you A) Love Kid Writers and B) Are Not Overly Offended by Poo.

Limebird Writers

I teach creative writing to children as part of an after-school enrichment program. One child, let’s call him Burt, is a bit obsessed with bodily functions. Burt wrote a story entitled, “The Battle of Pooey Land.”


As a teacher, I try to pull out the story that’s buried deep beneath all the references to ‘poo’. I know kids must explore this part of life, and some get into it to the point they must write about it. As long as there’s a plot going on, a story that comes full circle, then I can ignore the gory detail.

However, I have my limits.

Burt used a fellow writing student (who’s also his so-called friend) as a character in his story. He did not change his friend’s name in the story, but I’ll refer to the friend as Ernie.

Burt wrote a scene where Ernie was captured by a band…

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