All Are Welcome Here

by Marilyn Wolpin (for #FallWritingFrenzy2021)

As summer exhaled into fall, a new family moved in:

Two cats and a dog, mom and dad and three kids.

They brought challah and kugel,

Brisket, babka, and wine.

China adorned a table of white linen.

Flames flickered in silver candlesticks.

Recite the prayer. Welcome the New Year.

But where could they daven and sway?

Up on the hill, a lonely church sat,

cushioned in crisp fallen leaves.

She prayed for her pews to be packed.

But only on Sundays were her prayers answered

when townsfolk came to sing the Lord’s praises.

On Monday, Tuesday, or any other day,

the little church sat empty.

Could we? Should we? Would it be allowed?

They looked to the skies for a sign.

As the sun slowly set, a rainbow arched over them.

The family made ready to go.

In Sabbath-best clothes, in polished shoes and smart hats,

they crunched up the leafy hill.

The lonely church watched. The lonely church waited.

She puffed dust off the unused pews.

Someone was coming to pray.

As the family drew near, she opened her doors.

She rejoiced! Hallelujah! she cried.

All are welcome here.

3 Reasons to Join a Twitter Pitch Party

There’s a Twitter Pitch Party coming up. You don’t think you’ll enter. Here’s why: (1) It’s hard to write a concise and compelling description of your work in less than 280 characters. (2) You don’t want to put your work out there for everyone to see. (3) What if no one likes you?

These are all appropriate justifications for not attending a pitch party, but here are three reasons why you should:

(1) Yes, it is hard work to boil your story down to its nub and pique the curiosity of an agent or editor. But this is why you are a writer. Drink a tall glass of creative juice, bring up your word bank if you made one for your story, put to use all the tools of the craft – alliteration, word play, similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia – and get to work. You could follow the formula: When this event happens to main character s/he must overcome some obstacle and the result is theme. But not all stories conform to this. So be creative. It may take an hour, it may take three, or it may take two days and one sleepless night, but in the end, you’ll know that you’ve nailed it and you can do the happy dance in your heart. Plus, not only do you now have a Twitter pitch that sings, you also have the perfect lyrics for your traditional query. You may beef it up a little with story name, word count and age, but isn’t it just right for your query now? And in the process, you may unearth a truth about your work that makes you go back and tweak it here and pop it up there.

(2) There are no new ideas. There are only new ways to craft them. No one can write what you want to write exactly like you. So don’t worry about someone taking your idea. Because if you want to be a published picture book writer, you need to take all the chances, enter all the parties, and grab all the opportunities you are given. Be brave and take that leap of faith.

(3) And now that you’ve written the best, craftiest, most beguiling pitch ever, you never know, you may actually get a like.

In the end, in my book (as it should be in yours), you’re a hero just for completing the first two steps.

Dreams in the Year of COVID-19

I dreamed I was in a throng of people. We were at a conference on a college campus. No one was wearing a mask. It was pre-COVID time. We moved in tight bunches to our destinations.

Oh, there’s my brother—tall and bearded—exiting a building, surrounded by people hanging onto his every word. Was he a presenter? He could have been, but more likely he was there as a reporter, because that’s what he does. And, look over there is a mutual friend from college. (Yes, my brother and I went to the same college.) Could he have been the presenter? I doubt it. He’s a successful financial adviser. Presenting is not his thing. Funny is his thing.

I am moving as one with the group, pushing forward towards an entrance. We enter a small lecture hall at the top tier of seats. Most of the seats below us are already taken. I move down the row and sit. We are elbow to elbow, thigh grazing thigh. I wonder what kind of conference this is. Wondering brings me to consciousness.

I am sad when I realize how much I miss this collective human experience—a movie, a Broadway show, a ballgame, a concert, a restaurant. The sadness sticks with me all day even as I try to drown it by keeping busy…read a new nonifiction children’s picture book. Analyze it. Read Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly reviews of it. Do a crossword or two. Do a four-star Sudoku. Make cole slaw from scratch. Watch a true crime TV show. Play games on my iPad.

It’s to no avail. The sadness coats me like dense fog that you can’t see your way out of. Everything I do is muted by it. Sleep is held back by it. And I am even sadder because I know that even after the threat is gone—and it will be gone—life will have changed immeasurably and these shared human experiences may be a terribly altered thing.