Can an anonymous act of kindness produce more than unexpected joy and happiness? Twelve-year-old Darcy Diggins has firsthand knowledge that it does. She has an incredible story to tell, but who is going to believe that an anonymous act of kindness can produce a full-grown miniature person called a Dewbabie, and that the misplaced tribe of tiny people from the RainForest live in her closet? In order to protect the Dewbabies, Darcy enlists the help of her zany grandmother, Ms. Earlene, the celebrity storyteller whose outfits are always worth a mention. Darcy not only has to manage a middle school bully determined to ruin her reputation, but she also has to restrain a middle-age bully, her miserable, misguided aunt who is also her middle school guidance counselor. Aunt Estelle’s misery leads her straight to a scam artist wanted by the FBI. As Darcy’s responsibilities multiply, so does her resolve, and this is how and when she discovers her aptitude for “Biospychology.”
Not a fan of Bingo? Me neither, unless I'm playing with a table full of interesting characters. Playing games with friends is one of the best ways to stay connected. I relish the times my three sisters and I can gather around the bridge table and play until all the snacks have been eaten and one of them has to depart. We live in four different states, NJ, PA, FL, and SC. When the four Lyman sisters wear matching tee shirts that say EAT SLEEP BRIDGE REPEAT, we get noticed. Beyond the kind attention we receive, we're also respected for keeping our tradition of gathering, playing, and celebrating our togetherness. We've been told that others are jealous of how we have maintained our relationships, even if it's only twice a year. Like Grandma Earlene says, "Everyone wants to put on a team jacket." And like someone else said, "We don't stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing."
Everyone wants to put on a team jacket. It's about the fear of being left behind, or worse, being left out completely. In an effort to connect with my distant grandchildren, I create a weekly Zoom meeting with the 8-year-old twins in VA. And yes, I started with Dewbabies and quickly found out they were not interested in the novel, only the characters. I created weekly activities with a theme—how to tell a good story. Here's what Mimi learned: They're still very young. They want to be silly, and I, the educator, wanted to be an entertaining instructor. When I asked them what they remembered about our 3 months of ZOOM-ing, they couldn't come up with anything. They needed prompts. When I asked what they liked best, their response was, "Videos!" of themselves, of course. Thankfully, I captured many clips of previous spring breaks vacations with Mimi and Grandpop on video. The end result...everyone put on RANDISI team jackets as we recalled the fun times we spent together as a family. Our story is a good story. Mission accomplished.
Remember 7th grade? There's a lot happening no matter who you are, but if you're the new girl with insider information, you're instantly accepted by the junior psychologists, Darcy Diggins and her best friend Jenius Johnson. I do believe 12-year-olds are the most interesting people on the planet. They have little fear of the future because their imaginations are in full force. Life hasn't spilled over onto their innocence yet. In this excerpt, Darcy activates her imagination giving the term a name, Probables. Perhaps you can relate since life nowadays is more unpredictable than it is predictable. How about making a list of Probables and see how many come true?
Have you ever heard that children are most like us in their emotions and least like us in their thoughts? Same emotions, different thoughts. I figured that creates storytelling opportunities. Darcy gets her best friend Jenius (pronounced genius because there are already too many Jennifers in the world) to tell her the story of how she got left behind on a family vacation—at a gas station on the interstate! Jenius has to admit she was well taken care of, perhaps by a good Samaritan or a real angel dressed like a farmer elf. It's up to the reader to decided, I suppose. For those of us who are traveling the interstates, you may want to practice doing roll calls.
My thoughts are with every child who has witnessed never-before-seen acts of violence and destruction this past week. While parents can and should control what their children see and hear, this situation has spilled over into everyday life, or what used to be normal life. The spotlight is presently on law enforcement offenders, rioters, and looters, however, bullies with lower profiles also need to be addressed. My solution is to overdose bullies with kindness and humor, like in this chapter where Darcy has to rethink her talent show presentation due to Tyrone’s evil intention to ruin her act. Bullies are starved for attention, on that we might be able to agree if we take a broader view of their actions. Honestly, I had to disengage from discussions this week about what’s going on in the world. I am an author on a mission to write culturally sensitive, positive and uplifting material. To those who are left out or left behind, hang on. Don’t give up. If enough people start realizing the actual power of kindness, perhaps even performing anonymous kind deeds (hopefully as a result of reading my book), the world may miraculously straighten itself out. As in every great story, the good guys win. Those are the stories I like focus on and include in my work.
Quarantine fever is something we never thought we’d have to figure out, but thankfully, a lot of us are coping and doing our time away from society in all kind of creative ways. It made me think about this scene about Grandma Earlene’s friends and neighbors (Bingo birds) enjoying their Thursday night Bingo get-togethers. People love to congregate, and for good reason. Being social adds years to our lives whereas isolation leads to unhealthy situations, mentally and emotionally. As a weekly prison volunteer, I’m familiar with how isolation affects individuals who are incarcerated. Like the Bingo birds in my book, the inmates in my Toastmaster club at Ridgeland Correctional Institution get to be socially connected on a weekly basis. However, COVID-19 has kept us apart. While Zoom meetings have kept us on the outside connected, there is no internet for prisoners behind bars. All that to say, the Ridgeland Toastmasters will be extremely grateful when we do get to reconvene. I can only imagine what creative ways Showanda, the Bingo hostess, would have come up with to keep her Bingo birds socially connected. Hmmm. Seems like that would be food for thought for Book Two.
After watching (and rewatching) the movie Pay It Forward, I wanted to steer readers into believing, or at least considering, that performing an anonymous act of kindness has unseen repercussions. I started to imagine a world where readers are challenge with the task of staying unnoticed while being kind. I believe kindness is a valuable asset and character trait that should be encouraged, especially when being tested by bullies. People who perform random acts of kindness generally describe a sharp reduction in stress due to a rush of euphoric feelings followed by a longer period of calm. It’s known as “helper’s high.” I learned this from a book by Allan Lukas, The Healing Power of Doing Good. I guess you could say my book is a great combination—scientifically backed literature.
The first thing I did to get this story out of my mind and onto paper was to put some flesh on the main characters, twelve-year-old Darcy and her grandmother, Ms. Earlene. My Grandma Earlene character came into extreme focus when met “her” at a writer’s conference. Her name was Billie Gregory and she was in her eighties and dressed to the nines. I knew Ms. Earlene had spunk, and Darcy was clever, a combination of zany and brainy, two qualities with plenty of potential for reader entertainment. Billie Gregory was the exact embodiment of my imagination. “You’re my Grandma Earlene!” I blurted out when she sat down next to me at the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference. Her countenance, her zest, her outfits, all spoke of her dynamic spirit. It was so obvious. She was an extremely gifted storyteller. I couldn’t refrain from making a big fuss about her being Grandma Earlene’s doppelganger. She deemed me a worthy recipient of her self-published memoirs called A Promise to Keep, by Billie Gregory. It was a yearbook type publication filled with color photos of her in all her glorious moments and outfits. I have a collector’s edition though unsigned. I wanted to ask her to autograph it—All Kind Thoughts, Grandma Earlene, but I didn’t.
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