Why I Hate “The Giving Tree”–But How This Story Makes Us Better Writers

Very insightful.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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I’m going to say something possibly unpopular and perhaps a bit strange. I hate the children’s book The Giving Tree, even though oddly, it was my favorite book. I remember being five and reading the story and just weeping for the tree, feeling devastated. Understanding what she was feeling. I recall hating the boy and the self-centered narcissist he grew up to be. Taking and taking and never giving.

Why did the narcissist cross the road? Easy. She thought it was a boundary.

As a child I was obsessed with most of Shel Silverstein’s work, memorizing poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends. But maybe my early fascination with Silverstein highlights what good writers do for their audience, no matter the age.

While many people love The Giving Tree and hail it as a wonderful tale of unconditional love, there is also the other camp who finds the…

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Louisiana Flood 2016

We knew even if they didn’t.

We didn’t ask why us or when FEMA would get here. We got out and started working and saving lives. We remember hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and oil spills.

We didn’t ask when someone would come to fix this for us. We started fixing it ourselves. Neighbors and family and friends doing what they could.

We’ve been through hurricanes and tornadoes, floods and oil spills.

We didn’t ask people to supply us with diapers and baby formula. We knew people who didn’t flood would get it here as soon as they could.

We didn’t ask all those folks to get in their own boats and risk their lives to help us. They just did.

The people in the boats didn’t ask who the victims were going to vote for. They just rescued everyone who needed help.

The rescuers didn‘t ask if the victims were Democrat or Republican. They paddled up and asked how many pets do you have and can everyone fit in the boat?

They didn’t hesitate upon seeing the color of people’s skin when they arrived to rescue them. They just got them in the boat or helicopter and got them to safety.

We didn’t ask where the politicians were. If they showed up and maybe brought an 18 wheeler loaded with supplies, we appreciate that.

The size of this catastrophe is too vast. It was too much for the government to handle all by themselves. We knew it, even if they didn’t.

We worked hard and we mourned. We felt our hearts break and we worked some more. We commiserated with our friends and neighbors. We saved all the people and animals we could. We wept for the ones we couldn’t.

We worried about jobs for those whose workplaces were damaged. We prayed for each other and everyone who came or sent help.

We cried with friends and family and neighbors who lost everything they had. We felt their sorrow. Sometimes life was all that was left. We appreciate each and every life.

We are Louisiana. We knew even if they didn’t. We will survive this.

We appreciate your help and your prayers. God bless you. Every one.

4 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Writing

This might be the single best blog entry I’ve ever read. Way to go Kristin Lamb! And kudos to the guest blogger, Alex Limberg.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Today, copywriter and blogger Alex Limberg is back with a post that’s a bit different from his typical “how-to” writing advice. In this one, he spills the beans on how his own writing process came together. Here is the link again to his wonderful e-book that will help you create a tight and intriguing story by asking “44 key questions.” Check it out! And off we go…

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Over the last several months, I’ve had the great pleasure of publishing ten guest posts here on Kristen’s fine blog. They were posts about all kinds of technical writing topics like characters, action scenes, how to introduce information, plot, etc… (look them up).

But for my eleventh post today, I thought it was time to switch gears.

Yes, it’s time for me to stop hiding behind the mask of the teacher and show myself to you bare-naked. But fear not, this post…

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New Release – Dead Still by Barbara Ebel, M.D.

Re-blogged from Ch’kara Silverwolf. New medical mystery by this fantastic author!

Ch'kara SilverWolf

I have a new release for you from my friend Barbara Ebel for her new book Dead Still, which is a spin off of the Dr. Danny Tilson novels.

Dead Still (Dr. Annabel Tilson Novels Book 1) by [Ebel, Barbara]

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Annabel Tilson is a medical student finally liberated from the two-year confinement of lecture halls and gross anatomy. The first clinical rotation of her junior year is surgery where she has high hopes of mastering the basis of patient care like her famous neurosurgeon father. However, she soon realizes that studying for exams and taking care of patients is only part of the complex burden of her role as a surgical team member.

Grappling with a third-year resident who hates her and a dreamy infatuation for her chief resident, she also discovers an inordinate outbreak of patient mortality. Annabel then meets a resident from another specialty who has noticed the same statistics and, with his help, takes a crash course…

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It Ain’t Just Talk: 3 Crucial Elements of Great Dialog

Dialogue. It can really help your story, or… it can hurt.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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She’s baaaaack. Well, sort of. Today I have an extra special treat. This is going to sound super conceited but whatever, it is MY blog😛 . But first lemme caveat with this.

I feel I DO have a knack for predicting the next big thing. Case in point, in 1993 I was at an air show and there was an unknown all-female band I chatted with because no one was really over there. I loved their unique sound and gushed over how one member employed the banjo (an instrument forgotten at that time).

I told them I was sure they were going to be the next biggest thing in country music, and even bought some of the cheap merchandise they sold to support their music and prove I meant what I said.

That little band was The Dixie Chicks.

I’ve done this time and time again with authors and…

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The Typewriter

In this era of wifi and amazing take-it-for-granted technology, some may not remember typewriters. Many of them were clumsy things. Okay all of them were. If you hit two letters too closely together, the keys would “stack up” and you had to push them back down and try again. And I won’t even get started on manual typewriters. Yes, we had electricity, but at one time all typewriters were manual. How barbaric!

And correcting errors, well, it was just best not to make any mistakes. Of course IBM came out with a typewriter that used a little ball instead of individual keys. No more stacking up of keys. Those were faster.

I wanted a typewriter when I was in the seventh grade. I’ve always liked machines and I thought being able to type would be grand.

So being the spoiled little girl that I was, I announced to my parents that I wanted a typewriter.

You have to realize, that was a radical idea at the time. Several people told my parents I was too young to learn how to type. Just too young, they said. I wouldn’t be able to learn the “correct” way to type and that would be worse than not typing at all, they said. There were many and varied reasons why they discouraged my parents from getting me a typewriter and I admit I was a little worried.

I’m not sure when I first heard the story of my mother not being allowed to take typing class because she was a “farm girl”, but it stuck with me. You see, my mother was raised on a farm. Her daddy farmed for a living. He actually did a lot of things for a living back in the red clay hills of depression-era Louisiana. He began as a sharecropper and eventually had some land of his own. They had six children and all of them had to help with the farm work. They milked cows, fed pigs and chickens and gathered eggs.

And when the crops came in… they helped with that too. Oh, and cotton, yes cotton was king back then and a cash crop for my grandparents. My mother says that to this day if she drives past a cotton field, her back hurts. We’re surrounded by cotton fields here.

Education was always very important to my family. Neither of my grandparents finished high school. They had to work in order to eat. They were very proud when their children graduated high school. Granddaddy sold a cow to buy my mother a graduation ring. In fact, I think he sold a cow to buy every one of his children a graduation ring when they graduated. My mother’s ring didn’t even have a stone in it, but it was very pretty. I wish I had it now.

This brings us to the typewriter story. In high school my mother wanted to take typing, but there was a problem. There were six girls and only 5 typewriters. The school told her she could not take typing because she was a “farm girl”. The precious typewriters were reserved for “town girls”. I can see their logic. “Town girls” had a better chance of getting a job where they might have to use a typewriter. “Farm girls”, not so much.

I cannot know how she felt when the “town girls” went to their typing class, but I imagine she felt like a second class citizen.

I don’t think my mother ever truly got over that. When she graduated, she went to work as a waitress. She rented a room from a lady in town and worked at the one and only local café. It worked out okay, because that’s where she met my daddy and that was a very good thing.

She was a housewife until I got to high school. Then she worked at a cash and carry store and later a bank. She answered the switchboard and enjoyed it. She had opportunities to move up at the bank, but she turned all of them down. She worked many years on the switchboard. All those years and she was only held up once. But in all those years, she never had a typing job.

Only a handful of times did she mention the typewriter. She could never move into a position that required her to type. I offered to teach her, the bank offered to send her to a typing class. She always refused.

I wonder if she ever wonders what her life might have been like had she learned to type. “Water under the bridge” as they say.

Oh, I got my typewriter. My daddy also bought me a record and a book so I could learn to type properly on my manual typewriter. Yes, it was pretty radical back then. Not as radical as a “farm girl” learning to type, but pretty radical.

I have made my living using a keyboard. Yes, typing.

Symbolism & Setting—The Perfect Marriage

These are the nuances that make so much difference in a story you experience or one that you read.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Today I have two very special guests. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are here to talk about a more advanced concept in fiction—symbol. Take it way, ladies!

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We all want our writing to be layered. Like a gourmet meal, we want there to be more to them than just what is seen on the surface. In stories, this depth can be added a number of ways—through subplots, character arc, subtext, theme, and symbolism. Of them all, I think symbolism is one of the simplest methods to employ, and it packs a serious wallop.

Symbolism is important because it turns an ordinary object, place, color, person, etc. into something that goes beyond the literal. Babies represent innocence and unlimited potential, spring is synonymous with rebirth, shackles symbolize slavery, the color white brings to mind purity.

Symbols like these are universal in nature because they mean the same thing to many…

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Reading

I was a single parent for many years. Even after I remarried, I kept some of the same policies in place. I had a set limit I would pay for jeans, shoes, etc. If my children wanted the designer stuff, they had to earn the money to pay the difference.

My daughter and one of her friends had a discussion that she shared with me. She and her friend were reminiscing about the books they bought as children/teenagers. There was a little sheet of paper that they passed around in school. Really, it was two pages, front and back advertising the paperback books they could buy. She shared how she carefully considered each book and read the information about it.

After much consideration, she chose the books she wanted because while there was a set limit for clothing and shoes, there was no limit on books. She giggled when she recalled how she could have all the books she wanted. Still, she was very cautious with her single parent’s limited income.

My daughter told me how she and her friend enjoyed sharing their similar stories about clothes allowances that were limited and book allowances that never were. Then she confided there weren’t many people she could share that with and how great it was to find someone else who understood what she went through as a child.

While she was growing up, the “hard times” seem to have morphed into a badge of honor. Funny how that happens. And now here she is, years later sharing that experience with her close friend who understood what she was talking about.

I can still see her, bent over that sheet of books and reading about each one before finally deciding on the best ones to order and using her pencil to mark that sheet.

I did the same thing in school. There was never a limit on how many books I could get.

My oldest granddaughter is a big reader too. My daughter told me recently that she needed to have all the books she wanted and she would help pay for the books. Of course, these days, most of the books come from Amazon, but some still come from bookstores.

My son recently said that while most parents worried about keeping their growing children in shoes and clothes, he had to be concerned with keeping his oldest daughter in books.

I guess the time for the old two sheets, front and back that the school handed out for children to order books has gone.

We’re all still reading and now some of us are writing books as well. Nothing compares to the adventures we can have when reading. And isn’t that great?