Archive for October, 2007

This Santa is a gas, gas, gas…

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Some writers edit, as I have done periodically over my career. And some editors write, as my Marley & Me editor Mauro DiPreta has done in a charming new children’s book just out. Well, it’s not really my editor extraordinaire who wrote “Fartsy Claus.” It’s his colorful alter-ego, Mitch Chivus. As you no doubt gathered from the title, Santa has a bit of a gas problem. No, not a bit. He’s gassier than a methane plant. His problem began when he arrived at a house and, finding no cookies and milk, dug into a big pot of franks and beans, leaving him with one wicked case of flatulence. I now quote from the HarperCollins press release: “Lucky for Santa, his gastric gaffe took place in the presence of two especially ingenious tots, who just happen to have a science lab in their attic. The three of them head upstairs to devise a solution that will salvage Santa‚Äôs reputation and save Christmas for the whole world.”

So that’s the story in a nutshell. When I tell you “Fartsy Claus” is filled with seat-of-the-pants action, I mean that in the most literal sense. Or to quote Mick Jagger, it’s a gas, gas, gas.

I’ve made school appearances up and down the East Coast to promote my own children’s books, and I have learned that nothing makes kids giggle and squeal more than bodily functions. The holy trinity of children’s literature, I’ve concluded, is poop, pee, and underpants. Use them in any combination and you are sure to get loads of laughs. Mitch Chivus has hit upon a similar truth: for children, farts are always funny. Especially when you work them into groaner rhymes.

“Fartsy Claus” is on sale now. Check it out!

Canine Crazy in Carmel

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

It had been sixteen years since I was last in Carmel, and that was just a drive-by. Honestly, I don’t think I even got out of the car. But I found myself back there this past weekend to participate in the first (and hopefully) annual Carmel Authors and Ideas Festival, which featured some 30 authors. I was honored to be included in the lineup, which included Frank McCourt, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Seymour Hersh, Elizabeth Edwards, Irshad Manji, Douglas Brinkley, Firoozeh Dumas, and many other great writers. The event was the brainchild of two Carmel residents, Jim and Cynthia McGillen, who poured endless hours and a lot of their own money into making a dream become a reality. Hats off to Jim and Cindy for pulling this off, with only two months prep time, with nary a hitch, and for being excellent hosts. I flew in directly from South Florida on Saturday where I spoke at the annual National Writers Workshop in Fort Lauderdale, sponsored by my old paper the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. I arrived in Carmel after dark and was taken directly to the beach, where I joined a bonfire cookout in progress, complete with an Irish balladeer and a Jack London impersonator. The best show of the night, though, was above….the stars were phenomenal.

Carmel was just the balm I needed after a hectic week on the road. The weather was perfect, the views amazing and the beach inviting. Once I got down on the sand I found out why Carmel is known not only as one of America’s wealthiest enclaves, but one of the most dog friendly, too. There were four-legged beach bums everywhere. And I’m talking dozens. They raced through the surf, frolicked in the sand, and hopped in the air. And they all seemed driven by the same singular passion. A passion more powerful than the drive for food or sex: Chasing balls. Among the most hardcore ball chasers were the Labrador retrievers, of course. And unlike Marley, they actually returned the balls to their owners to await another throw. At one point, I thought I was at a casting call for Marley the movie. A half dozen Marley look-alikes, some with equally goofy personalities, charged playfully at each other. There is no happiness in this life like the happiness of a dog on the beach with a ball on its mouth. Naturally, that made me pretty darn happy, too.

I’m writing this from the tiny airport in Monterey, a few miles north of Carmel, waiting for my flight home to Philadelphia via Phoenix. My weekend on the California coast was splendid, but it will be good to get home.

That’s it for now. Thanks to everyone who came out to my recent signings in Ohio and Florida. And of course here in California.