I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.

December 1, 2018: Lesley Dahl

When I joined a writing group back in the fall of 2007, Lesley was already a member and she had already published a book. A few months later, I read The Problem with Paradise.That was over ten years ago, but I still remember how good it was, which is why it’s still on my shelf.

Here’s the opening paragraph. See what you think.

For the first time ever I’m dying for class to start. Not because I’m wild about American government, believe me. The guy who teaches it, Mr. Halverson, should have done us all a patriotic favor and retired about the time the ink was drying on his beloved Constitution. I’m desperate to talk to Jen, my best friend. I have the worst news. I just found out last night, thanks to Mom’s plans for me and my brothers, that my whole summer is ruined. I feel completely helpless, like I have no say whatsoever in how my life gets lived.

Right? That voice–can’t you just see this teenager? And that tone, as if we the reader were the best friend. This makes me want to read the book all over again.

Notice how visual this sentence is. And how many things are happening.

Just as her butt is coming in for a landing, she piles her hair on top of her head, clips it into place and calls out ‘Here’ before old Halverson finishes calling her name.

In this passage, Lesley’s details make the description come alive.

Plus he’s boring. He gives way too much detail when he tells a story–and not the kind that makes a story funny or interesting. For example, if he’s telling Mom something that happened at work, he starts off by telling her the exact time it was, as in ‘at three-oh-eight,’ what tie he was wearing, where he was standing in relationship to, say, the potted plants in his office, and exactly who else was there. Then he tells us every single person’s name, first and last. Like anyone’s going to remember, or care.

On the back flap of The Problem with Paradise, Lesley’s bio ended with this line, “She has always wanted to write books that kids would read, and this is her first one.”

And now, along with Publisher Cindy LamLesley is the Fiction Editor for Zizzlethe new international literary magazine for young minds. The first issue is just out.

On the outside, an adorable hardback square that looks like an instagram photo just jumped out of my phone and became real in front of me. And inside, wonder-full stories, big print, photos of the authors when they were young, a section at the back on the contributor’s Favorite Childhood Books, and for this first issue, stunning art by Andy Waikit. Plus, my personal favorite, a miniature bookmark.

At Zizzle, we believe all young readers can develop a discerning taste for fine fiction. We want to cultivate literature lovers through our dedication to the art of very short fiction.

Another cool thing about Zizzle–this bookazine is not just interested in children’s stories but in children’s stories that we all enjoy reading. You will see what they mean with the opening of “The Border Crossing” by Ryan Thorpe, whose favorite childhood books were the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.

A small paw landed on Frank’s desk and slid a tiny passport forward. Frank glanced up and saw a mouse standing there, trying to look casual, as if it belonged at a border crossing in southern Lutra. He picked up the document and held it under the magnifier to check its validity, but as soon as he looked at the photo, he knew something was wrong.

‘This really you?’ Frank asked as he looked back and forth from the mouse to the photo.

Zizzle–submit a story or send to your favorite little person or school or library or yourself–or all of the above. Let’s support the first and, at the moment, the only international English-language short story magazine dedicated to promoting quality flash fiction that both children and adults will enjoy.

And in case you are looking for editing, Lesley also finds time to work as an independent editor. Email me [catchingdays at gmail.com], and I will be happy to put you in touch.

Come back on DECEMBER 1st to read how LESLEY DAHL spends her days.