Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, October 29, 2010

Five Lessons (for Writers) from the Great Pumpkin

by Kerry Blair

How many of you saw It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on television last night?

It was almost as good as the first time I saw it thirty-four years ago. I say “almost” because the days of giddy anticipation have long fled. I miss them. Does anybody but me remember when we had three or four channels on TV and no concept of VCRs—let alone Hulu? Believe it or not, youngsters, as kids some of us actually had to wait days, weeks, months to view a beloved show. And when it was over, it was over. No rewinding, restarting the DVD, or running to the laptop. Sigh. I wouldn’t go back to those days, of course, but . . . okay, maybe I would go back, but only until after Christmas.

Anyway, I thought about our Frog Blog Gang as I watched the show. We were all in it, you know—though many of us keep changing characters. Here are a few lessons I learned this year from the Great Pumpkin.

LESSON #1: CREATIVE MINDS TEND TO WANDERAs the story opens, Linus and Sally sit in a pumpkin patch. Lucy and the gang trick-or-treat and plan their upcoming party. Everybody gives a nod to the fantasy of Halloween, but only Snoopy lives it. He hops from his airplane-cum-doghouse and finds himself behind enemy lines on a mission of utmost importance.

I’ve been there. No, not WWI-era France (even I’m not quite that old) but lost so deep in a story that it takes a tap on the shoulder—or kick in the shin—to rouse me. I’ve written two books now that end on Halloween. When I was working on the first, it was Halloween. In the real world, I stood at an open door in West Jordan, handing out treats. In my mind, I was someone else, miles away in a little town populated by people nobody else knew existed. At one point, my son took the bowl of Snickers from my hands and said, “I don’t know where you are, but these kids are here for candy.” Oh. Right. But then I was gone again.


Charlie Brown enters in a sheet with eight holes: I had a little trouble with the scissors.

This is where I am right now. I’ve written a book. I’ve studied writing. I’ve even published. Just as Charlie Brown knows what a ghost costume is supposed to look like, I recognize a decent novel when I see it. I’m just having a little trouble with the keyboard.

Another lesson:

At the first house:
Lucy: I got some fudge!
Schroeder: I got a chocolate bar!
Charlie Brown: I got a rock.

At the next house:
Lucy: Boy, I got three cookies!
Pig Pen: Hey, I got a package of gum!
Charlie Brown: I got a rock.

You’ve probably noticed that my fellow bloggers can be a little, um, much to hang out with.

Jeff: Hey, I got eight books on the market all at once!
Rob: Boy, I got a six-million-dollar contract!
Stephanie: My bag is full of Whitney Awards, wanna see?
Julie: I’ve got a new book, a new position in Storymakers, and a new baby!
Me & Sariah: We got rocks. They came with our houses.

You know what? There are years like that for all of us. (Sometimes there are years and years and years like that.) So what? There is no indication whatsoever—ever, ever—that Charlie Brown resents or even covets his gang’s treats. He hangs in, hangs on, parties with the rest, and then goes home to use his rocks for something fun and useful. (Believe you me, there are all kinds of useful, fun things you can do with rocks!)


Linus: There he is! There he is! It’s the Great Pumpkin! He’s rising out of the pumpkin patch! What happened? Did I faint?

While you have to admire his faith, Linus misses out on a lot of treats by sitting in that pumpkin patch. Meanwhile, Sally’s love and loyalty leave her frustrated and angry. Don’t get me wrong here, okay? Goals are great. Commitment is key. Writing rules! But none of it can ever come at the expense of our families, friends, and neighbors. When you’re not having trouble with the keyboard, it can be the hardest thing in the world to leave that little patch of sincere creativity, even for those who love you most. Sometimes we think we want a visit from the Great Pumpkin of Publishing more than we want anything else in the whole, wide world. But do we really?


Charlie Brown: I suppose you spent all night in the pumpkin patch, and the Great Pumpkin never showed up?
Linus: Nope.
Charlie Brown: Don’t take it so hard, Linus. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life too.
Linus: What do you mean, “stupid”? Just wait until next year! The Great Pumpkin will appear—and I’ll be waiting for him!

Nobody needs me to point out the lesson here. Linus has been sitting in that pumpkin patch all his life...and most of mine! He is my hero! He knows absolutely that just because his big “it” hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it never will. He is the embodiment of with faith, all things are possible!


Linus: I’ve learned there are three things you don’t talk about: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.


If you missed the masterpiece last night, you can view it online on ABC. (Or YouTube. Or Hulu. Or probably a dozen other places.) All pictures are original to the movie. Quotes are from a 1969 United Feature Syndicate book version, written and copyrighted by the one-and-only Charles Schulz! (Published by Landoll, Inc.)


At 10/29/2010 12:16 PM, Blogger Krista said...

What a great post! And so true! I was always conflicted about Linus. Now I know why! Thanks and Happy Halloween!

At 10/29/2010 12:23 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Love it, Kerry!

At 10/29/2010 1:42 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I think there's a little Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Linus in us all.

At 10/29/2010 4:59 PM, Blogger Michael Knudsen said...

Wow Kerry, you have revealed what I thought of as an inocuous cartoon to be a masterwork of modern film and literature. Great thoughts!

At 11/02/2010 8:28 PM, Blogger Becki said...

I love how you pull ideas and insights from a comic many of us grew up with. Snoopy has been one of my all time favorite characters for as long as I can remember. Thanks for the food for thought - it has zero calories but is very filling.

At 11/04/2010 7:39 AM, Blogger Mindi said...

Kerry, You will never just have rocks in your bag! :-)


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