What poisonous zombie tsunami sharks can teach us about achieving realistic goals - www.alliepottswrites.com

What poisonous zombie tsunami sharks can teach us about achieving realistic goals

“What would happen if a Tsunami came here?” my youngest son asked as he brought over his latest creation. It was a drawing featuring a tiny mound of brown in the lower left-hand corner. A large blue backward C shape filled the rest of the page. I looked at the picture. I looked at my son. Clearly, the island was toast.

“Maybe it would be okay. They might have had advanced warning,” I suggested. “Or maybe there are boats that could help them float away?”

It was a slim excuse at best (I’ve seen what a Tsunami can do to a small boat), but I was going to go with it. My youngest is only five (for another week). Who wants to talk about a disaster from which there is no hope of escape with someone that age?

LT’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at his artwork. “I’ll be back.” He ran off to the other room.

He returned with another drawing of a giant wave. This one even larger than the one before. “How about now?”

Note the use of bold strokes, repeated forms, and the inclusion of a single cloud on an otherwise clear day. Here the artist is expressing the futility of man when confronted by nature’s might.

I looked at the poor island in the picture. Then another feature caught my eye. Dark triangles poking out of the second wave’s curl. “Wait. Are those sharks?”

LT grinned. Both of my children are well aware of my, let’s say, lack of fondness, for Selachimorpha in all its variations and take an inordinate amount of joy in watching my reaction.

“You drew a Tsunami with sharks.”

LT’s eyes twinkled as he nodded. “What would happen, now?” he asked. “Would we die?”

I’m not sweating. “Maybe not. You could punch the sharks in the nose or use the Bat-shark repellent.” LT wants to be Batman, correction – The Batman Weatherman, when he grows up, so it should almost go without saying he’ll have a ready case of Bat-shark repellent on hand for just such an emergency.

“What if they were poison sharks?”

“Poison?! Umm… er… there might be an antidote-”

“What if they were zombies too?”

I blinked. I looked at my husband, was he hearing what I was? His grin matched that of our son’s. Yep. He shook his head at me as if to say, what are you gonna do? I turned back to our little creator of the next made-for-TV, cheesy creature feature. “Poisonous Zombie Sharks? In a Tsunami?”

Poisonous Zombie Sharks - www.alliepottswrites.com
I’m confident sales will smash all box office expectations. (In case you are wondering, yes, this is the sort of thing I do in my spare time).

Okay, I have to admit it’s a genius idea, but every now and then I have to wonder if there is something about that boy that just isn’t right.

LT was almost cackling with manic glee at this point. Delighted with his cleverness, but unable to speak, he could only nod again.

Seeing no alternative – no stick figure on the island representing a scientist who had up until this point been the laughing stock of his profession, but was now humanity’s last hope against the coming killer tide – I had to give up. “Well, I guess, then yeah, we would all probably die.”

Apparently, this was the answer LT was going for the whole time. Satisfied, he ran off to create additional masterpieces.

I’ve mentioned before, my youngest knows how to achieve his goals and close a deal. The first step to doing either is to go in knowing what you want going out.

The same can be said about storytelling. It’s far easier to tell a joke if you know the punchline just as it is far easier to write a book if you know the ending.

But while having a goal in mind can keep you focused, it is also important to allow yourself the flexibility to deviate from the plan. I’m pretty sure that the inclusion of poison and zombies was a spur of the moment decision (though with LT one really never knows). All he wanted was for me to confirm that his island was a complete loss, but he allowed our conversation to detour, evolve, and refine until the end result was even better than the one he originally imagined.

Many of us made resolutions at the beginning of the year and many of us have already broken them once or twice. You don’t need my permission, but I want you to know that’s okay. Life happens. Zombie sharks may appear in waves.

The important thing is remembering the reason for the resolution in the first place. Ask yourself what is the underlying need and keep asking until you know the answer by heart and adjust your plan accordingly.

Who knows? When you finally reach your goal and look back, the path you wound up taking might prove even better than the one you first imagined.



You Should Experience Change At Least Once In Your Lifetime And Here’s Why

I don’t know how you choose to celebrate the new year, but at my house, we watch the Rose Parade. It is an event which takes place in Pasadena, California each year. Similar to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in terms of network coverage and national tradition, the parade features marching bands and the occasional musical act, but unlike its northeastern relation, this parade relies on drivable “floats” decorated using only botanicals rather than on the same reusable balloons.

As I watch the parade coverage, I am constantly amazed by the amount of detailing that goes into each of these floats. Groups spend a year or more designing these displays, planning the look to the last petal. There might be a dragon that can bat its eye or a giant bicyclist who can tip his hat. You never know what you are going to see until it makes its way down the boulevard. Which is why I’ve gotten frustrated over the years with the trend in network coverage to skip floats in order to have more time to promote their Spring line-up or break for the millionth commercial.

So this year, I decided to do something different. I decided to watch the Funny or Die / Amazon Prime’s coverage (affiliate link) of the event hosted by Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon under the guise of their fake personalities, Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan.

The coverage was a satire, though the joke was on hosts like themselves rather than parade participants and what made me chuckle the most was a bit they did on New Years Resolutions.

At the beginning of the parade, they talked about the resolutions they’d set for themselves for 2017. Tish’s, for example, was to “put herself out there and let the universe be her guide.” They talked about their relative success. Tish’s felt she’d really taken that risk and grown as a person by attending a wine class. Then at the end, they announced their resolutions for 2018.

They were EXACTLY the same, delivered in a blissfully unaware deadpan voice.

Were Amazon to bring these characters back next year, you can imagine only too well they would be discussing the same resolutions as well as the same results year after year. We can imagine it because when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, that’s the sort of thing so many of us in real life do too.

We resolve to lose the same 15 pounds or eat less of the same junk. We resolve to spend more time on our personal interests or travel more as if by the stroke of midnight on Jan 1st, we can suddenly invent more hours in the day or money in the bank. We tell ourselves it didn’t work last year, but it would this time because this year was different – we were different.

It’s not entirely a lie either. We ARE different. However, the difference usually comes down to one thing – we are older. The rest is pretty much the same. Thus ensuring that the next time the end of the year comes around we will find ourselves in the exact same place we are at its beginning.

Which brings me to my point. In order to truly be anything other than simply an older version of ourselves, we have to be willing to make a significant change at least once in our lifetimes.

I’m not talking about a change in hairstyle or taking a new route to the job. Something significant. Something that challenges what you’ve done before and what you think you know. Something that involves a risk and is guaranteed to make an impact.

Whether that impact will prove to be good or bad, only time will tell, but one thing is certain – you will not just be older after trying, you’ll be wiser too.

To that end, I’m making a few changes of my own this year.

For example, this year, I am inviting other to occasionally add their stories to this site and have added a page under my About menu detailing my instructions for those interested in participating as guest writers. It is my way of saying thanks to those who have similarly helped me by way of paying it forward.

If you have a story in you about a risk taken, a new venture, or an event that set you on the path you find yourself on today, I would encourage you to reach out in the coming weeks.

Because big changes aren’t as scary when we resolve to make them together.

So here’s to trying new things as well as a happy new year.




The Writer’s Toolbox: Flash Fiction

While Lamont’s annual Christmas light spectacular is still causing our power meter to whirl, the discarded cardboard from toy boxes, sheets of flattened bubble wrap, and broken twist ties that seem to multiply with every pass are proof that another holiday season is coming to a close.

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Overall, Santa was kind to me. Clearly, it is not nearly as difficult to stay on the nice list as his elves would have you believe. One of the gifts I received was The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain.

One of my resolutions in 2015 was to participate in more short story contests. I started out strong, but I have to admit I fell well short of my goal. I guess I was too focused on the final re-writes and edits of my novel. But I am now back in early draft mode. Anything can happen. Let the creative juices flow! I opened the box.

Inside there were Popsicle-type sticks with random sentences on them. The instructions say to pick up one labeled FS for First Sentence, then another one labeled NS for Non-Sequitur and finally one labeled LS for Last Straw. Last Straws are only sentence fragments.

For example, I picked up the following:

  • FS: I had this system for getting exactly what I wanted out of people.
  • NS: They were all the same, I decided.
  • LS: the time Leslie called me a leech.

Then there are cards that deal with senses. The instructions say to draw three:

  • The straggling cuticle
  • a rusty weathervane
  • the taste of lipstick

Finally, there are disks which prompt protagonist, action, obstacles, and goals.

  • Protagonist: Laurie the famous actress
  • Goals: To know God
  • Obstacle: The barista at Starbucks
  • Action: Learns to foresee the future.

I had this system for getting exactly what I wanted out of people. It wasn’t exactly difficult. I’d always been a natural actress. I mastered the art of laughing and crying on command before I was even out of diapers. I didn’t feel any guiltier manipulating the average person on the street than I did manipulating the emotions of the audience. They were all the same, I decided. I didn’t know then how wrong I could be.

It all started that day on the set. Props were still in a state of assembly. A rusty weathervane which would eventually be mounted to the box that would serve as a barn blocked stage left. As Julie handed me my costume, the fabric caught on a straggling cuticle. I made a mental note to schedule an appointment with my favorite manicurist.

Joe, the production assistant, began handing out plain white Styrofoam cups containing a steaming beverage. “Here you go, Laurie, from two blocks over, just like you asked.” He beamed like a well-trained pup. The whole crew preferred Starbucks, but I wouldn’t let them serve it. I couldn’t. The awful barista, Leslie had the nerve to call me a leech. I smiled as I sipped the beverage even though I had to admit it tasted like lipstick.

Savoring the image of Leslie’s empty tip jar, I wasn’t paying attention as I made my way off stage. I didn’t notice the length of cord stretched out along the exit until it was too late. Coffee spilled from the cup, landing in a puddle near the electrical plug. Instinctively I reached out as I fell, my palm coming in contact with the hot liquid. My hand wasn’t the only part of my body to burn as a lighting fire danced along my spine. My vision blackened as my body convulsed.

Then it was as if the pain was being experienced by someone else. I could see my body surrounded by the crew, but I floated above the chaos. Then I felt another presence and I knew I sensed God. I reached out toward its warmth, but it was as if a bubble popped. Suddenly I was hurling back to the ground as all went black.

When I opened my eyes, I was once again on the stage floor. Joe was cradling me in his arms. Julie was crying. Images danced across my vision as I took in the scene. That’s when I realized I had returned with a gift. I had seen the future, but the next time I met God I would make sure he didn’t have reason to reject me.

I may not have done the exercise exactly right but it was fun nonetheless to connect the dots and now I am thinking that I may just be able to keep my resolutions after all.

May you all have an equally promising start to 2016!