Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Small Change In Genre

By John Ramsey Miller

My oldest grandson, Elijah, started it seven years ago. He had issues with his hearing due to a chronic gathering of fluid in his ears and when he heard his father calling me Pops, it sounded like "Dots." Since then, each consecutive grand child added to the family has called me Dotz. My sole concession to having that tag for the remainder of my life was to butch up the name by replacing the "s" at the end with a "z." Now even my children and my wife refer to me as Dotz. I’ve never minded it at all. In fact I sort a like it. The other grandfather is called grandpa Ed, and I bet he’d kill for an actual nickname like Dotz. You can choose a self-aggrandizing nickname for yourself, but those rarely stick.

The grand children love coming out to the place because we have dogs, chickens, frogs, lizards, bugs, a large fire-pit, art supplies, a large field, woods, a motor-driven wheelbarrow, several wagons, a four-wheeler, computers, a toy closet, and their grandmother is always cooking something tasty, which Dotz won’t be allowed to eat because his doctor says so. They can run and play out here without having to worry about traffic, or a lot of the perceived dangers of town. We do have sharp tools, ropes, barbed wire, thorns, grass stains, nettles, exposed tree roots, holes, poison oak and ivy, falling satellite debris, and the possibility of an occasional Copperhead, Black Widow spiders, and rabid animals wandering onto the property.

My 4-year-old granddaughter spent the weekend at our ten-acre mini-farm. There are always chores to perform out in the boonies, and I had dropped some trees a few weeks back so it was time to cut them up for winter fires since cold weather was fast approaching. Sasha was complaining because all we do is work, so I piled my chainsaw and splitting tools into my motor-driven wheelbarrow, and put her up into the bed and took off through the woods.

When we got to the trees, I trimmed the limbs off and started cutting the trunks into sections that would fit into the stove. Sasha loved the ride and as I started cutting, she watched from the wheelbarrow.

Then my wife asked me to cut kindling and I cut the limbs up. Then while I was cutting the trunk, my wife had Sasha help her load the wheelbarrow with smaller logs, and Sasha accompanied the wheelbarrow to where we were stacking wood and helped her grandmother stack it. Sasha helped until we were done, smiling all the while. I realized that my grandchildren all get involved with chores like gathering eggs and feeding chickens and a million little things we have to do to stay above the water, so to speak. And I thought about how mush they enjoy being with us and what they are learning. It’s giving them a boost to their self-images, and perhaps even more important than playing video games or watching TV.

So I’ve been setting aside part of my days to work on children’s stories based on my personal experiences with my grandchildren and the lessons we learn on this mini-farm. These stories are a bit different that the usual stories for children. These are a few of the “Farm Fun With Dotz” titles:

“Gathering Eggs With Dotz” or “Eggs are not baseballs, Little Rush.”

“Wild Creatures On Dotz’s Farm” or “This is why we never pick up snakes.”

“Being Gentle With The Farm Babies” or “Dotz is going to teach you how to use a shovel.”

“The Rooster Has Spurs” or “First Aid on the Farm.”

I like writing simple sentences and books that are just a few pages long. But writing for children isn’t as uncomplicated as you’d think since the lessons have to be positive, and it’s so easy to warp young minds. Telling children stories isn’t nearly as easy as writing thrillers. Don’t take my word for it, give it a try. You might just write the next CHARLIE AND THE UNFORTUNATE CHAINSAW INCIDENT.

Ever thought about going cross-genre into something totally different?


  1. I thought about doing romances as Belle Scott-James, but the author photo always tripped me up.

  2. James, like they don't sell wigs and makeup in LA?

  3. You've got a very cool life, John Ramsey Miller. When can I come play?

  4. I have had two YA series knocking around my head for years. I don't pursue them because a) I don't understand the market at all; and b) I'm just regaining momentum in my fiction and I'm fearful of losing it.


  5. I wrote four YA girl-detective novels in the 90's under a well-known pseudonym, and I absolutely loved it! Growing up, reading books by that pseudonymous author helped inspire me to become a writer, and it was great to write years later as "her"! I think the YA audience has really changed over the years. The stuff I read from ages 11-14 was incredibly tame compared to what they read now. I picked up a copy of Gossip Girls once, and 'bout fell over! It would be nice to write something for very young kids, something completely safe and kind.

  6. I'm finishing a YA at the moment and have toyed with a children's book - my boys certainly provide me with enough inspiration:) they would love your place!