Kind of a long post. I almost broke it up, but felt that would mess up the flow. Sorry for the length, but I hope you havAlmost every author I know had a common experience with their first book. They wrote it in a white-hot blaze of brilliance. This book was going to blow everyone away. They felt inspired while they wrote it and they knew it was amazing. Then they sent it off to a publisher or agent. Often, they knew that there might be some grammatical errors, or a maybe some punctuation glitches they had overlooked. But the brilliance of their book, they were sure, would more than compensate. That's what editors are for anyway, right? So, they sent something in that was a bit rough, or at least not polished, sure that the underlying awesomeness would trump a few technical errors.
You know where this is going, don't you?
Editors and agents, of course, want you to send in a book that is as polished as you can make it. Except for a very, very few exceptions who are notable exactly because they are so rare, those who do this kind of thing get their work rejected. Some agents may see hundreds of queries a day from authors who are all sure they've written the next Harry Potter/Twlight/Jurassic Park/Whatever.
Experienced authors chuckle at this now and smile ruefully as they remember doing the same thing. Serious writers revise and polish until they can make their work as good as it can be. Then they send it out to a critique group--other writers who give them honest and blunt feedback on what doesn't work and how to fix it.
Incidentally, this instinct doesn't end. I'm always surprised when I send a chapter out to my critique group. I know how amazing it is. I can feel the intrinsic worth and merit flowing. And they usually give me some nice compliments. But they also focus my attention on what is flawed and what needs to be fixed. Quite frankly, I'm often surprised by how much there is in this category. I was so sure this was awesome.
So, I have a choice. I can be defensive and insist that they are blind or malicious and cling tightly to a flawed manuscript that will never be all it can be. Or I can humble myself enough to hear what they are saying.
You know where this is going, don't you?
Whenever I take their advice, I always realize they were right.
Writing a book is something you pour your whole soul into. It consumes you and becomes a part of you. Consequently, you lose your objectivity very quickly and have very little ability to view your book calmly, dispassionately, or accurately.
I submit that parenting is much the same. You have this wonderful child who is literally part of you, your flesh and blood. You have poured your heart and soul and time and money and effort into raising this child and you love them. You are sure, quite sure, that your child is the smartest, kindest, funniest, most talented child ever.
You, like the first-time author, are so sure of the value of your child, the inherent awesomeness that you assume everyone else will, too. Yes, he might be a bit spirited, but surely everyone will see what a heart of gold he has. Yes, she might be a bit silly sometimes, but she has a heart of gold.
Usually, those lower school or elementary school years are fairly smooth. Kids that age are sweet and often do what the teacher wants, so you might even have your view of your child reinforced.
But then in middle school things start to change. You might hear that your child is disruptive or mean or lazy or disorganized or needs to be in a lower math class. You might hear that your child is all kinds of things that you don't like and don't believe. Like a critique group, they start sending back comments that imply your child is not perfect. That he or she might even be deficient in some areas and may even need some serious work. This might come from coaches or teachers or some other outside expert.
Now, you have a choice. You can assume that everyone is either blind or malicious or both. You can assume they just don't get your it. They just have it out for your child. And in doing that you can cling ever tighter to a flawed human soul that will never meet it's true potential, protecting it from that which will make him or her stronger and better.
I am not going to tell you that teachers are always right. Nor are coaches are the other outside experts who interact with and evaluate your children. But after 25 years of working in schools, I'm going to tell you that I've not many malicious fools.
Take a deep breath. This is not a rejection. This is simply your manuscript coming back with lots of red marks from people who care enough to tell you the truth, people who want to help you.
You can fight it and ignore it. Or you can listen and work on it.
Consider that it is statistically improbable that your child is as perfect as you might think they are. Yes, you love him or her. But that doesn't mean he or she always acts well and does the right thing. And that's fine. They're not mature adults. Accepting criticism of your child is not rejecting the inherent worth or value of your child. It's simply acknowledging that there is some work to be done.
Teachers are often the parent's critique group. Don't seem them as adversaries. See them as giving you feedback that will help. And for heaven sakes, if you hear the same thing from multiple people, listen! It's highly unlikely that they all have it out for your child.
I hear often from parents that "Mrs. X just doesn't like my son," or "Mr. Y just doesn't appreciate my daughter."
Maybe that's true. But I think students and parents vastly overstate the amount of personal animus behind corrective feedback that comes from teachers. It truly is not usually personal.
However, even if it is, so what? Does that automatically negate the value of the feedback? My daughter once had a teacher that she swore didn't like her. And as I watched, I came to agree. I really don't think he liked her. But that didn't negate the comments he said about her. I think some of what he said was true . More to the point, the things he told her could help her become a better person. Sometimes the feedback of our harshest critics might be truer than that of our friends.
Consider that you are going to be just as biased about your child as a teacher who doesn't like him or her--it's just bias the other way. And honestly, your bias is probably going to do more long-term harm than the other kind of bias. If a teacher is seriously biased worst-case scenario is that your child gets a lower grade in one class and some negative comments. If your bias succeeds, your child might go out into a competitive world with major blind spots and deficiencies that could impede his or her ability to get and keep a job, succeed in relationships and so on.
Hence the value of the critique group we call teachers. Coaches. Church leaders, etc. If you get comments listen and thank heaven that these people care enough about your child to use their valuable time to correct them and help you. If you hear similar themes from several people, listen!
Your job is not to protect your child from criticism. It is not to convert the world to believe in the goodness and greatness of your child. Your job is to help your child become all that he or she can become--and that includes learning to except feedback and overcome flaws. Realize that you are going into this extremely biased.
Okay everyone, I'm going to give you a life lesson for free. Let's say you are an aspiring performer. Your school has an active theatre program and you have spent a few years in it. You hope and dream that one day, you'll get the lead (this could be changed, incidentally to be about something else, like starting on the varsity team in a sport, etc.)
Let me give you some advice on this.
If you are flaky and unreliable when you have a small role in the chorus, your director will pr0bably not trust you with a lead. If you goof off and miss rehearsal frequently (unless you are excused) then the director will probably not seriously consider you for a larger role.
Parents: if you grumble about casting choices (don't kid yourself--this stuff always gets back to the director) and if you are half-hearted in filling your obligation to sell tickets or help with props or paint the set or whatever, then you are shooting your child's future chances in the foot.
If you are glib about your child missing rehearsals because of your lack of organization or planning, if you don't live up to the commitment that came with your child being part of the play, then you are sending the director a powerful message that you cannot be trusted.
Sadly, that means your child can't be trusted since your child is dependent on you for rides and logistical support.
If I can't trust you with little things, I will not trust you with big things. Far too many people work too hard on a play to take a chance on someone I can't fully trust.
You don't get the lead and then develop responsibility. You act responsibly with small things, earn trust, and then (assuming you also have talent) you get the lead. So many people want to do this in reverse. But life doesn't work like that.
I would add that while I'm talking about the context of theatre, this applies to many other things in life--sports teams, jobs, and so on. If you can't be trusted with little things no one will give you greater responsibilities.
This seems so obvious, and yet I am always astonished at the number of people who don't understand--and act--on this principle. I get that adolescents might not realize how this works, but I am surprised more parents don't get it.
Every year I'm shocked by the people who are shocked that they (or their children) didn't get big roles. Sometimes they haven't prepared adequately or worked to refine and stretch and develop their talents to the point that they could be seriously considered. Other times, perhaps most often, someone is talented but has goofed off a lot. Or a parent has been scattered, unsupportive, and not very good at making sure their child was where they needed to be.
Believe me, future stars, this makes a big, big difference. Trust me on this. I begin looking at potential lead material years and years in advance, watching carefully to see who has talent, but who has a good work ethic, who can focus. Who cares enough to try. And which parents will support them. I know other directors are the same in this regard, and I that that coaches are, too.
So, there it is! Free advice that will change your life. You are welcome.
Last night at 1:00 am, our family left the cozy precincts of Mockingbird Cottage and dashed through the rain and wind to enjoy the hospitality of our neighbors, who have a basement.
We love Mockingbird Cottage and find it a wonderful home. But with no basement, it is less than ideal for tornado warnings.
The immediate danger of tornadoes passed and we returned home, but the storm raged the rest of the night.
This morning, we walked out of the house and the sun was shining. Birds were singing. It was warm and spring-like. All was bright and happy and cheerful. The contrast to last night, when it seemed the world would be blown apart by the storm, couldn't have been greater.
It occurred to me that this is a very apt metaphor of the adolescent years. Tremendous storms are followed by the most beautiful, loveliest days. But the sunshine can be deceptive. We could easily get another storm tonight and it might be bigger or worse.
Those of us who live in places where tornadoes are apt to occur have a plan. We don't tent to get too worried about them, they're not part of what most people think and deal with on a normal, daily basis.
I would suggest that this provides a useful approach in dealing with the adolescent storms that will come to your child. Don't let them rattle you. Go about your daily business, keep calm and carry on. Storms will come often and they usually blow themselves out. Most storms can be weathered with not special shelter.
To the extent you can, be there for your child. Support and love, but always be the voice of reason. Help them see (gently) that what they think is devastating at the moment is probably not going to hurt them in the long run. Teens need people to talk them down in calm, warm tones not someone who make the storm seem bigger and worse than it is.
But there are sometimes when a storm is big enough and the atmosphere unstable enough, that a shelter is necessary. You are the shelter! Your strength and stability will help shelter them from the tempests of adolescence.
Don't try to make the storms go away. You can't. Just provide the quiet, safe place for them to work through the storm.
Don't let the storms interrupt your life or ruin your equilibrium. Your child needs you to be the stabilizer, not to stir the pot even more.
To be a shelter, you need to be grounded and solid. You don't need to be perfect, but you need to be mature. You are the adult, not the oldest kid. You must be grounded in something. It might be your relationship with God or your spouse. It might be your responsibility to your family--whatever it taks.
But if you are to help your teen deal with these storms you must be the shelter--a quiet, place of security and calm that the storm can't beat down. You need to be the adult. If your psyche is sheltered and secure you can coach your child through. If it's not, if you are insecure and dependent on others, then you are running around in a tornado trying to shelter your child with a Hello Kitty umbrella. It's a nice thought--but it's not going to do much.
Kids need adults in their lives--adults, not just older people. The maturity and security that you radiate will provide you with the ability to help your child.
One of the trends that worries me most is how many parents are skewing down to their children in terms of the way they act and talk. They are as caught up in teenage dramas as their children. This kind of a parent can offer very little during these storms.
Note: If your kids think you are cool, you might need to do some careful examination. There are some parents who pull this off, but most parents, if they are really parenting, are not going to seem cool. Extra warning: if you care that your children think you are cool, if you have ever tried to be cool to them or their friends, then you really need to re-think things. Don't be cool. Be a parent. Don't be fun. Be an adult. If you are real, they will love and respect you far more than if you manage to snatch some fe
In the last few years I've ended up doing a fair amount of critiquing and content editing for a number of writer friends and I've found that I really enjoy it--and I'm pretty good at it. My theatre background helps me analyze plot and character problems and years of academic writing have helped me focus on clarity and flow. This is content editing: word choice, plot arcs, character motivation, prose style and so on. This does not include line editing: proofreading for punctuation errors, etc.
At any rate, I've decided that I'm going to hang a shingle out to provide content editing and manuscript review. Publishers are spending less time editing books, so this is something nearly any writer can benefit from--novice or experienced.
Because I'm new at this, and don't have a huge client list or track record, I'm offering a very low introductory rate: 1.00 a page! Yes, 1.00 per page. That is less than half of what other people charge!
I have some endorsements up from people I've worked with already. I'll be putting more up shortly. You can see them here.
I want to talk about a serendipitous discovery I made that has seriously changed my class.
Let's be honest: most middle school kids (there are some exceptions) are really not all that worried about how the chorus they are in sounds. It just doesn't hit their radar screen at all. Saying something like, "Ya'll, you're flat!" or "That just doesn't sound good" is going to be met by anything from apathy to sarcasm--and this is true not only on chorus but in all kinds of other endeavors.
They just don't care. There is too much going on in their lives. They are worried that someone just walked past them without saying anything to them. Does that mean they are now a social outcast? Has everyone noticed the zit on their nose? Is the rumor true that the girl/boy they like is now going out with someone else? They just got a C on the math quiz, but it wasn't their fault that they forgot to study because their math book was at their friend's house and so on....
Middle school students feel things in heightened emotional terms. Everything about their lives is sort of life or death, desperately urgent. So, some fat old guy standing in front of them saying, "At measure 23, you really need to remember to decrescendo" is just not going to merit a whole lot of their attention. Again--this could be true about doing their homework, cleaning their room, you name it.
For years, I struggled to get them to notice and care about how they sang, and for years I ended up frustrated. I would try to get them to take it seriously, explain why it was so important, and so on. They cared even less. And then I discovered a secret that is so simple and so effective that it is seriously like magic.
I'll tell you about it next week.
The secret is called the Lame-o-meter. It's very simple. The Lame-o-meter is a 10 point scale that I draw on my white board. I write a 10 at the top and a one at the bottom and then fill the numbers in descending order in between. A ten means that their song has been perfectly, completely, and totally lame. A one means that the song is flawlessly wonderful.
During the song, as they sing, I moved my marker on the board, up and down, as they sing, making a sort of musical EKG graph. If they do a passage really well, the line goes down. If they do something poorly, it goes up. It takes some effort to conduct and do this at the same time, and I have ruined more than one white shirt with my dry erase marker, but it's worth it.
I don't know why, but for some reaosn this is magical in terms of getting them to do what I want them to do.
As far as I can tell, there are two elements in this. First of all, the real-time feedback is very helpful. Middle school students live in the moment and a few minutes in the past can be forever ago. So, giving them feedback after the song is over doesn't always work well.
Second, they understand the concept of lameness as their whole existence is an epic struggle to not be lame. The world, as they see it, is not cast in terms of good and evil or light and dark. No. It's cool and lame. Period. They don't want to be lame, nor do they want to be associated with anything even remotely lame. Even singing.
Incidentally, when I first tried the real-time graph as feedback, I used a traditional scale with 10 being the highest. That worked fairly well, but not nearly as well as the lame scale. I think that part of this is that they instinctively flee from anything too earnest or sincere or serious because it makes them vulnerable.
I'm still trying to understand exactly why this works. I also think that the sarcastic humor inherent in this is also part of the magic. Sarcasm can be a wonderful, wonderful thing with this age (has to be deployed SUPER carefully, though. Use only small doses occasionally and work up).
Here is one caution to parents, though: You are lame. Sorry. You are. It doesn't matter how beautiful, cool, funny, rich, or accomplished you may be in the outside world. To your adolescent you are irreparably, irretrievably, hopelessly lame. Don't try to fight it. You'll have an easier time teaching a fish to breathe out of water. Just realize that and adapt accordingly.
Last week I learned an important lesson about middle school students--one I want to pass on because, as I think about it, this particular trait has some big implications. Of course, perhaps I'm the last one to figure this out and everyone else already knows it.
The other day in class, I quoted something from Napoleon Dynamite. I expected them to laugh. Instead they just looked at me--they didn't think it was lame, they just didn't get it. I was intrigued by that. It didn't register at all. Yet, a few years ago, the kids all wore "Vote for Pedro" t-shirts and quoted the movie often.
But that was a few years ago.
To an adult, for whom life is relatively static and stable and consistent, a few years ago is not that long.
To an adolescent, it is an eternity--a different lifetime, in fact.
They are growing and changing so fast that these years are almost literally like dog years to them.
A few years ago, I was slimmer and had less gray. There are a few other things that were different, but not all that much has changed in my life since then.
A few years ago, these kids--who are now interested in clothes and boys/girls, movies, new music and so forth--were third graders trading Pokemon cards and still watching PBS. In three more years, I'll be fatter (well, hopefully not, but I'm being honest), grayer and will hopefully have written another book or maybe two. My life will be, probably, essentially the same. Differences are likely to be in degree, not in kind.
On the other hand, in three more years, they'll have left the school they've known for most of their lives, entered new social groups, and will be driving, dating in earnest, deciding whether to drink, take drugs, engage in serious relationships, figuring out where to go to college and other major, life changing events.
The rate of change that takes place in an adolescent's life in the same time period is far, far greater than what occurs in an adult's.
A year does not mean the same thing to them as it does to us. Their worlds changes both more substantially and much more frequently than ours.
It's important to remember this because it has many implications, both small and profound. I see at least four.
First: In times of dynamic and major change, humans tend to focus on existential priorities like survival, not on other things we view as secondary or superficial. Your adolescent is going through their personal, internal version of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, or World War II--all their resources are being invested on staying afloat in a time of great change. That means they have less energy and resources to devote to secondary things like civility, cleaning their room, doing their homework and so forth, just as during WWII, the focus was on doing whatever it took to win, not on beautifying communities or other worthy goals.
This does NOT mean that you just smile and let them get away with everything. They will learn to focus on these important but secondary things as you consistently, over the course of years, stay on them and hold them accountable. But just realize that many of their deficiencies are not lack of character or laziness--it's a perfectly natural response to a major stimuli.
Second: Given the rate of change they are going through, they have far, far shorter attention spans. When your life does not change much over the course of years, then you can be patient. You can practice delayed gratification more easily. You can take the long view. But when your life will be qualitatively different in a year or two, when even your body will be vastly changed in six months, when two years means you will be a totally different person, things aren't quite so serene. This has implications in everything from their attention spans (almost non-existent) to the way they make decisions (impulsive, short-sighted, immediate gratification). Again, you don't just blithely let them do whatever they want. But you understand the forces at work so you can help them make the necessary adjustments--just as you would adjust for wind speed when throwing a ball.
Third: This very important. The way they see you will change. A few years ago, you were everything to them. Now you are, in many ways, a serious obstacle to doing what they want to do. This is good. If you are not a serious obstacle to them doing everything they want to do, then something is wrong--either with them or with you.
What they mean to you has not changed--it will not change. But what you mean to them has changed significantly. It will continue to change. It will come back to a place where they appreciate you. But not for a while. This is normal!
It used to hurt my feelings a bit that students I love and care about--students on whom I poured time and effort and attention--graduated and moved on emotionally to the point that I was no longer a big deal in their lives. A few come to visit once or twice, most don't.
It learned that this was not ingratitude, nor did it mean I messed up somehow. It's just the way it goes. I was in their lives at a specific point. When that point ended, and they grew up and moved on, my relationship with them changed as well. There's no malice or lack of gratitude. But my relationship was with a particular 8th grader. That 8th grader is gone totally--changed by the accelerated pace of maturity and development. I don't, can't, and shouldn't mean the same thing to them.
And that is how it should be.
It's a different with parents since the relationship is closer and deeper and more lasting than a teacher and a student. But the point is the same--they are changing at light speed, and their relationships are changing along with them. That includes your relationship with them.
Fourth: You cannot stay contemporary with your kids. They change much too quickly and their lives are devoted to the coolest clothes, music, movies and so on. I see some parents who gamely (or pathetically, it depends on your view but I'm trying to be positive) struggle on, trying to be cool and keep up with their teens. Don't. You can't do it anymore than you'll be able to race and win your grandchildren when you are 75. You will quote a movie you think is relatively recent. They will either have no clue what you mean or will think you are lame.
I've learned that kids don't expect adults to be "cool." In fact, I have noticed over the years in a number of schools that the teachers they most genuinely respect and love are not necessarily the youngest, coolest teachers--although sometimes they are. Kids respond to genuineness, to authenticity and reality. They also respond to those who are concerned about them.
They would rather have a sincere, well-meaning slightly crotchety old man than someone who is actively trying to be cool by imitating their modes of speech, dress, and music. Unless this is natural for you (and it is for just a few of us) then it's best not even to try. If you try and don't pull it off, you are lamer than lame in their eyes. Much better to just have them respect and love you by being an adult than trying to go down to their level and be a big teen. As we tell the kids so often--be yourself.
I'm sure there are many other insights as well that can be drawn from this. Feel free to share in the comments. I'm going to keep thinking about this because I feel like this has given me some new understanding of these fascinating little creatures that I spend my life trying to connect with, inspire, motivate, discipline, coach, and teach.
I guess the highest praise I can give a book is when I finish it and think, "Darn! I wish I would have written that." Well, that's how I felt when I finished Time Gangsters by Berin Stephens. Berin has written an original, exciting adventure for middle grade readers.
The story is about two contemporary teens who stumble across some ancient Egyptian coins with amazing powers--including the power to travel back in time. Their travels, however, put them in conflict with a 1920s gangster boss who wants the coins, and their power, for himself.
The time travel element allows Stephens to bring in some great atmosphere, and the book is a lot of fun. As with the best books in this genre, the kids may draw on some unusual powers, but ultimately, they beat the bad guys with a combination of their own intelligence, bravery, loyalty and teamwork.
I read a fair amount of this genre and I felt that Time Gangsters has the themes we like and expect, but it felt unique to me--it was not just another version of Harry Potter or something like that.
I think the action and mystery will appeal to young readers--it is definitely boy-friendly, although I think girls will like it also--as well as older readers who enjoy middle grade literature. You can purchase the book on Amazon here and you can visit Berin's website here.
Buy this book! I think you'll really enjoy it.
This is disgusting. It is reprehensible. I don't have the words to say what I feel about it. This has nothing to do with politics (incidentally, I made this point when right-wing people mocked young Chelsea Clinton, but there were no blogs back then).
Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post has ridiculed the way the Santorums dealt with the death of their still-born child. You can read about it here. Alan Colmes did the same thing, but was called out on it and apologized. Robinson needs to be called out on it as well--by every parent, by everyone who believes in simple decency.
This revolts and infuriates me. Is nothing off-limits? Is nothing sacred or private anymore? A family mourning a lost child is one of the most intimate, private things I can think of and it is ghoulish and inhuman to discuss it, let alone criticize it.
Do what you want with your own kids--don't have kids if you don't want them. Mourn them however you want. On that note, disagree loudly and vigorously with any of Senator Santorum's policy views (I do with a number of them).
But at what point do we say, "Too far! Stop. Our humanity and decency is far more important than political points!" I would suggest that this is a good point. Is everything to be fair game in politics? Spouses? Children? Dead children? Are there no boundaries? Is politics going to determine what we see is right and wrong. The reality is that many people will react to this story based on their political views. That is wrong. We should react as human beings.
Dear heavens, what and who have we become? I'm normally pretty optimistic, but things like this make me think our culture has crossed a point of no return that makes all our other challenges seem trivial.
Badly done, Mr. Robinson. Badly done.
So, just before Christmas I got the first version of the cover for my book, The Kindling, which will be released in June (or July--I can't remember now. I'll have to check). This is an initial draft only. My publisher is very good to get feedback from the author--as well the various editorial and creative staff. So, it's possible that the final cover will look different, even very different. Still, it's fun to get covers, and I thought some of you might be interested in the process and seeing how it evolves (if it does).
It's incredibly exciting to see the cover for your book. It makes it real somehow. It's also exciting because it's a visual representation of your book--an interpretation of the essence of your story. So, it's a pretty big deal. What do you think?
P.S. You can read a little about the book here.
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had enjoyable celebrations. We had a lovely time here at Mockingbird Cottage--a quiet evening with the family and good food. Just the way I like it.
A few notes:
1. Just a reminder, I'm now answering comments in the comment section instead of via email. Just want you to know in case you think I'm ignoring your comments.
2. I'm working on an important post for next week MSM--an important trick I've found to getting adolescents to do what you want them to do. I don't have time to write it today, but do come by next week. I think it will be worth your while.
In the meantime, I thought I'd post some pictures from our last play (I do have permission from the parents of all the students, incidentally).
This fall, instead of doing one big play like any sane person would do, I decided to do two shorter plays. My intent was to create more opportunities for more kids. So, we did two one-hour plays as Act 1 and 2. Sondheim's Into the Woods, Jr. and Disney's Aladdin Jr.
I've been wanting to post pictures but haven't had time or energy until now. Here are some pictures from Aladdin. I'll get the Into the Woods batch up in another post. The story follows the Disney movie pretty closely with just a few minor modifications, mostly for the sake of time.
As always, I'm amazed at what committed middle school kids and supportive parents can pull off. It's really amazing! I have the most incredibly supportive and talented community.
Here are the narrators, getting the show started with "Arabian Nights."
Princess Jasmine in the marketplace.
Aladdin and Jasmine meet in the marketplace
Iago and Jafar
Close up of Iago. This girl was amazing! It's not easy to manipulate a puppet, and she did it so well, acting with the puppet and her own face.
Aladdin gets thrown in the treasure cave.
Aladdin finds the lamp at the bottom of a big pile of treasure. I wish we had a better picture....oh well.
Here's the Genie's appearance. We used a large CO2 fire extinguisher behind the treasure pile. It was cheap, easy, and very effective. Last spring, in The Wizard of Oz, the fog machines we used kept triggering the fire alarms, so this was a great alternative. You could use a number of these for bigger plumes of smoke. Great special effect tip! We just had to get it refilled between shows.
The Genie. Normally, he's a big, blue guy. But we had a small, pink, girl, and she was stellar. She lit the stage up every time she came on. For the staging in "Friend Like Me" we hired a magician to choreograph a magic show. That worked out really well.
Some of the magic tricks in "Friend Like Me." Every night, I died when she did this trick. She tied a rope around her neck and pulled it tight--and it apparently slipped through her neck. It was impressive, but I was always terrified that she'd do it wrong one night!
Another magic trick--"Can your friends pull this out of a little hat..."
Aladdin meets the Flying Carpet.
The start of the parade for "Prince Ali." We choreographed so that the kids crossed the stage, then doubled back and did it again. It gave the impression of a huge throng of followers.
The Genie, Carpet, and Aladdin try to figure out to get a date with Jasmine.
Aladdin's transformation into Prince Ali was tricky. It's supposed to be something the Genie does magically. The script recommends turning out the lights and then bringing them back on, with Aladdin making a quick change. That seemed a bit obvious, but we weren't sure what else to do. So, our magician taught the Genie to make some of Aladdin's costume items "appear" magically out of an empty prop. Then she handed them to him and they went off-stage where he changed during the scene change. It worked really well.
Aladdin, the carpet, and Jasmine and some dancers during "A Whole New World." Oh my goodness, could those two kids sing! They sounded so good--this Aladdin had a far more mature and rich voice than we usually see in middle school.
Nice shot of Iago and Jafar.
Aladdin, the Genie, and Jasmine in the finale
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
Genre: YA Paranormal
Genre: YA Speculative
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