Interviewing My Expert for Today’s Assignment

Yesterday I was considering doing some research about how to make a Mars Curiosity model for my Teachers Write Monday assignment. The assignment, by Sarah Albee, was to do nonfiction research, particularly to talk to an expert. However, I am spending my writing time this summer working on a children’s fiction story. Plus, since I’m hanging out at home with my husband after his eye surgery, he became my “expert.”

My Mr. Fix-it husband would know what kind of motor I needed and how to make the Mars model. I wanted it to be made of cardboard for a shout out of sorts to making, to Caine Monroe, Nirvan Mullick, and the subsequent Cardboard Challenge and Imagination Foundation.

Keith suggested I would need a base to hold the motor. He said you’d want to make a base out of plastic or something.

I argued. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m not really making it. No one who reads it is going to know if it’s really feasible,” I said.

He acted like he didn’t hear me.

He found a rubber band car on YouTube. After watching the first minute, he said, “OK, here’s what Bailey needs to do. Make the base with straws and toothpicks, like in the video. You can use the bottle caps for wheels. This will be strong enough to hold the motor from the broken RC car he’s going to find abandoned at the thrift shop.”

“OK, maybe,” I said when I woke up this morning.

It was also after the part last night, when I snatched my Chromebook from him and gave the I-said-I’m-not-really-going-to-make-it-!-don’t-you-get-that-? speech.

So here’s a short scene from my story after my “expert” interview:

“Hey, Bailey, look what I found at work today!” Dad came bolting into the kitchen through the back door, the wooden-framed screen door bouncing behind him. Bailey was sitting at the round yellow Formica table–what Bailey used to call “our sunshine table”–munching Oreos dipped in milk. “Some gals ordered smoothies for lunch and they came with these jumbo straws. Perfect, right?” He held up two shiny straws, one peachy cream color and one lavender.

“Perfect?” Bailey said. “Dad, the Curiosity is like white, gray and black. How can these be perfect?”

“Oh, but look how strong they are. You can’t even bend ‘em. They must be close to a half inch in diameter. And heck, we can spray paint them black.”

“Black would be good. Won’t we need more?”

“I asked the women to save more for us. They said they order a few times a week. I had never even noticed them until I saw them in the garbage today. You know, after we watched that YouTube video yesterday.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think that was going to work,” Bailey was still suspicious about it.

“Let’s give ‘er a try after supper. What do you think? And, hey, why are you eating Oreos now?”

This post was originally posted for today’s Slice of Life at my Dare to Care blog.

My Name

Today’s Quick Write is thanks to Hena Khan. It’s about names.

If I could go back in time and name myself, I would choose Lisa Lorraine. Why? That was the name I was going to be called, but the last minute my mom switched and named me Denise Joanne.

I was always disappointed that I didn’t get the lilting and lovely name of Lisa Lorraine.

Lisa meant oath of God.

I got Denise.

I was named for a deity, though. Dionysus, god of wine and ritual madness.

I always wonder what became of Lisa-from-my-mom’s-girl-scout-troop. She was the reason I couldn’t be called Lisa. When my mom was expecting me, she was also putting up with Lisa in her troop. It must have been a stressful nine months, for my mom couldn’t bring herself to give Lisa a namesake.

I thought of  being Lisa over the years. I even wondered if I would have been a different person–more poetic, more graceful, more musical. (The only problem would have been my good friend Lisa in elementary school. We would have become Lisa S. and Lisa R.)

Yes, Lisa Lorraine, that’s me for a moment.

Lisa Lorraine – lithe and lyrical, softball all-star, auntie to her many sweet nephews, confident, singer, poet, and all-around not mean girl.


Today’s Quick Write prompt came from Phil Bildner, author of the Rip and Red series, among others.

Debra left the classroom, thinking to herself. Well, I don’t want to be remembered as a bully. Who would? I hope that book is finished soon. Mrs. R. has been reading it so long. Hashtag Choose Kind, blah, blah, blah. Enough, already.

Debra dropped her literature class junk into her bag as she walked passed the row of 6C backpacks. “I wish this day was over,” she said aloud, but to no one in particular.

“Pardon me?” asked Samantha.

“Pardon me?” Debra mimicked. “Dork, I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Oh, sorry. I thought you were,” Samantha replied, shyly. Samantha continued to load her literature anthology, notebook, and free reading book into her pink and teal paisley backpack, trying to ignore Debra.

Her mom had told her Debra probably was hurting inside herself from some thing or another. “Maybe you can get to know her and help her see the bright side of life,” Mom had suggested, with her typical sing songy voice.

“You just don’t understand, Mom. She’s bad,” Sam had explained.

“You know her name means ‘bee.’ I guess she’s living up to her name–stinging people who get in her way,” said Mom.

Bee. Who would name their kid after an insect?” asked Samantha, who knew her name means The Listener, and knew that Dakota means friend, Mahala means woman of power, and Theodore means gift of God. She knew many more too; her mom was really into names.

Samantha finished at her backpack and managed to muster up enough courage to say, “Have a nice day, Debra.” Then she raced off to geography class.

Bailey’s World

Jo Knowles, young adult author, offers a Monday morning warm-up for the Teachers Write group. Here is today’s, where she challenged us to think about our character’s world. I’m attempting to answer her questions about my brand new character, Bailey.

Bailey’s bully has the power when he’s at school. He is easy to tease. His mom often accuses him of being a target. “Don’t let the bad boys get your goat,” she has been known to tell him. At home, he has a lot of independence and feels more powerful. He feels confused by his two roles in his life. His mother trusts him, and she is often at work, so she’s a little distant. Dad has been unemployed for several months. He works in his wood shop and tries to make projects to sell to help the family. Bailey loves his father and sometimes helps him in his shop.

Bailey’s economic status is lower middle class. His father had been out of work for six months when he had a heart attack. There is health insurance, because his mother is employed, and he was always on insurance through her work. The deductible is $8,000, though, and the family most years have not had to pay it all and haven’t needed expensive medical bills, until this year.

Social status: they are members of a middle-sized community in central Iowa. They do not go to church, which is unusual in their community. Mom works in a manufacturing company that makes parts from carbon fiber for the aerospace and medical industries. It pays fairly well for a job on a manufacturing line.

Bailey is an only child. He was adopted, and his parents were in their late 40’s when he was adopted.

Bailey is introverted, loves reading, and shuns technology for some reason, I don’t know why yet. He’s in grade 6 at the public school.

Some questions I need more information about:

  • What is Bailey’s quest?
  • What makes Bailey’s world unique?
  • What makes Bailey’s world dangerous/safe?
  • How does the setting help or hinder Bailey’s quest?

Thank you, Jo!