Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Several months ago I agreed to write an article for a professional journal.

Fortunately, the a topic is one with which I am familiar and knowledgeable- writing processes.

Time has flown,  however, and  I have busied myself with other tasks that I must also complete.  I am adept at procrastinating by doing things that I really have to complete as a way to delay, avoid, or ignore other equally important tasks. See related post on Procrastination and Writing.

Fortunately, I have recently done several presentations which have given me a logical structure for some sticky parts of the article and I have also finally settled on a framework for the entire article.

Despite having defined the skeleton, until the past several days, I was unable to add flesh to the bare article bones.

Fortunately-- and meanwhile-- I have been wrestling with the perennial writer's conundrum--how to get started, I was inspired to modify the bones and to come at the whole thing from a different angle.

Fortunately, I now have about half of the draft written.

I have way too much already--there is a word limit.
Fortunately,  I tend to be wordy --and my writing gets better as words are subtracted.


I just finished reading Neil Gaiman's newest offering for children.
I love this latest addition to what I call the Good News Bad News genre.

Father has stepped out to go to the store so his children can have milk on their cereal.
As he attempts to return home, his encounters and adventures in other worlds, in other times are hilarious, with just a hint of danger.

In Fortunately, the Milk, as he recounts the journey to his children once he is home, his salvation throughout the tale hinges on the milk he holds (or falters on the milk dropped).

Along with every young child I have ever met, I love the juxtapositions between the good news and the bad news, the best case scenario and the worst case, the fortunately and the unfortunately---- the back and forth drama as it unfolds in bits and pieces.

There are several books that I include in this genre.

My all time favorite picture book of this type is Remy Charlip's Fortunately.

Fortunately, Ned has been invited to a party.  Unfortunately, the party is in Florida, and he lives in New York.
His good and bad news involved a borrowed plane, and exploding engine, a  parachute that has a hole... and more.
The events in his life quickly turn from bad to good to bad to good--each cliff hanger solved by the fortunately on the next page.  Does he make the party?

Michael Forman has constructed a tale in which the fortunately hinges on Granny's umbrella, which Milo sets off to return to her in  Fortunately, Unfortunately.  His adventures finally land him at Granny's house, unfortunately having weathered a storm (Fortunately he had the umbrella), fought pirates, dinosaurs, aliens and more. Unfortunately, the pirates have tracked him down to Grandma's house...

Margery Cuyler keeps us guessing in That's Good! That's Bad! Just as we think we have correctly identified the bad or good the script flips and events turn, as a little boy takes to the sky hanging onto a run-away  shiny red balloon.

 A similar, closely related word that will also turn our story on a dime and catapult us into a new world, time, location,or an adventure is meanwhile... 
Like the good news, bad news structure, this one word also allows us to imagine beyond our wildest realities and unrealities to create cliff hangers and surprises.

In Meanwhile... by Jules Feiffer, Raymond learns from his comic books just how powerful meanwhile can be.
Raymond's eye caught a word in the middle of the page. It was a word comics always used to change the scene. MEANWHILE.... but with three dots after it. What it meant was that where ever you were in a story, just plain MEANWHILE... was going to take you somewhere else.
What if I had my own MEANWHILE... wondered Raymond.
And one last  book of this type,Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities., will provide hours of fun as you actually pick the path and select the particular meanwhile in this unusual comic in which you follow the path  of your choosing to select the adventure or the meanwhile that you want to follow.

While all the books shared above take us to fabulous and imaginative places, we can also use the Fortunately/Unfortunately structure to narrate our real world situations and thoughts.

A quick search in your favorite search engine will result in several poems by both adults and children written in this framework. Here are links to several of my favorite finds:

Finally, I must share the most unusual discovery I made while researching this blog.  Fortunately: Websters' Timeline History 393 BC-2007,  comprehensively traces  the history of the use of this word in history, literature, and so forth.    You may want to check it out just for fun.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Think about an imaginative story or real-life events.

Select  either Fortunately/Unfortunately or Meanwhile as a framework for your ideas.

Write a story or poem using this framework.

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