What Happens Next?

One of my favorite picture books as a child was “Drummer Hoff”.

The simple text and vivid illustrations captured my attention as a child and still hold it as an adult. In doing some research, I discovered the book was a bit controversial for its time, and believed to carry an underlying anti-war sentiment which was denied by the author and illustrator, Barbara and Ed Emberley. There’s no denying there is much that could be read into the text and illustrations, as with many books, but for me it was always about the rhythm and rhyme. The men in colorful uniforms, each performing an important task. And Drummer Hoff, it was always about Drummer Hoff.

As the book opens, the reader is already privy to the ending, “Drummer Hoff fired it off.” On the first page, we know how the book ends. Why would a reader keep reading?

Knowing the ending, is only part of the story. Yes, the ending is important, and quite satisfying, but it is not the most important part. Sometimes it really is about the journey.

We are told “Drummer Hoff fired it off”, but what is the mysterious “it”?

Even though we know the ending, our journey with Drummer Hoff and the mysterious “it” has only just begun.

I have read this book a hundred times and still I find myself fascinated by the characters, entranced by the color and design of the officers’ uniforms. I feel the excitement I felt when I first wondered, what happens next?

In my own writing, I often struggle with endings. Something terrible or wonderful or earth shattering must happen at the end! But I’m learning (slowly) that the end comes naturally when I let the beginning and middle take me there.

“Drummer Hoff fired it off.” A simple, powerful opening that leaves the reader wondering and wanting more. And so, page after page, we meet the men who build the cannon. Each man doing his duty, contributing an important piece to the story.

Sometimes as a writer, I lose focus of being a reader. I become so focused on what I want to say, that I forget to think about what my reader wants to read. Finding my old friend Drummer Hoff has reminded me, the most important part of any story is to entertain the reader. Some writing is meant to persuade or inform, but ultimately even those articles need to be entertaining. Whether it is a children’s story, a science article, a novel, a poem, a journal article or anything else, if the reader does not wonder, “What happens next?”, they will move on to something else.

Some may not be nearly as entertained by Drummer Hoff as I am, and that’s OK. My Drummer Hoff, may be your Pippi Longstocking or Winnie the Pooh. A character, a story, that keeps the reader guessing and wondering “What happens next?”

As expected, at the end of the book, Drummer Hoff does indeed “fire it off.” And what a big bang it is!

But ultimately, even the bang isn’t truly the end. There is always something after. There is always more to the story, and perhaps that is the best ending of all. An ending that leaves the reader wondering, “What happens next?”

All illustrations are from “Drummer Hoff” adapted by Barbara Emberley and Illustrated by Ed Emberley. Copyright 1967.

The Adventure Begins

A few years ago I felt discontent with my life.

As a child and teen, I had imagined myself going on great adventures, saving the world, finding my soul mate, that sort of thing. Instead I found myself still in school, working at a job I only sort of liked and not a soul mate in sight.

Don’t get me wrong, I had many wonderful things in my life at this time. I had family and friends who cared about me. I had a dog and a house with a backyard. I had a garden (until the deer ate everything). I was active in sports like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and weightlifting. I had a room for all my craft projects. I had a large collection of books and a little time to write.

So what was the problem?

I was restless. I wanted something bigger, something adventurous and daring and completely outside the box. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I said a prayer anyway.

I asked for an adventure.

Just like that.

But then after I prayed for adventure, I said another prayer. I prayed for peace. I prayed to be content.

I decided I would be content in my life and live it to the fullest just as it was. I would put my best self forward in everything I did and see where it led. I would make my own adventure right where I was, or so I thought. But God has a funny way of answering prayers and right after I decided to be content with what I had….my prayer for adventure was answered.

The answer to my prayer came the next day, in the form of an email.

An email! God doesn’t answer prayers in emails!

But this wasn’t just any email, it was an email from the circus! I had applied for a job months before and finally received a response. They wanted to interview me!

But I had decided to be content with my life! I couldn’t just change my mind and leave everything I knew!

You’re probably wanting to slap me about now. I just got an email from the circus after praying for an adventure and I was going to turn it down?

Nope, I decided to go for it. It wasn’t an easy decision but if an email from the circus isn’t a clear invitation for an adventure then I don’t know what is.

So I got my adventure and I traveled with the circus for almost two years.

Then I got to a point where it was time for a new adventure. It was time to pursue old hobbies and passions. It was time to go home.

And so in this long rambling post about dreams and prayers and adventures, “Three Show Saturday” was born.

Why “Three Show Saturday”? Well, in the circus we had three shows every single Saturday pretty much without fail.

A three show day is hectic and fun, exhausting and energizing. It is full of work and friends, laughter and tears. There is a sense of accomplishment at the end of a three show day, and so, in tribute to my circus days, a new adventure begins here, with you my dear readers, in the hopes that all our days may be circus days.