Monday, December 19, 2011

'Twas the Flight Before Christmas

Oh, I love Christmas tree decorations.
Imagine my panic when Susanna Leonard Hill decided her holiday contest would be a rhyming challenge like Clement C. Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. She kindly provided an out: "... if the idea of rhyme strikes fear and loathing in your heart, you may write a prose version instead ... "

If you make it to the end, I have a note.

Here's my entry:

'Twas the Flight Before Christmas
By Stacy S. Jensen

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the space
I pack, check and fret as we ready to fly to Grandma’s place.  
Did I complete the things on my long, long list?
Mail cards. Wrap gifts … I fear something is missed.

I double check each bag as Hubby carries them to the car.
Then I see Henry, our toddler, through the door ajar.
I shoo him away and consider all the things we’ll need,
As other moms gave kid travel advice for me to heed.

As visions of spit ups and diaper blowouts float through my head,
Henry grabs a carry-on bag with clothes and books to be read.
I think of Hubby as I pack one with pants and size 15 shoes,
So he has clothes, if the airline chooses his checked bag to lose.

With luggage ready to go, I carry Henry to bed.
He refuses to go night-night and his PJs are shed.
Hubby arrives to re-dress and rock Henry to sleep.
Minutes later exhausted Hubby and I fall in a big heap.

The trip to the airport was quick for an early Christmas flight.
At security, we put our stuff in trays as Henry clings tight.
He doesn’t like the buzzers and noises at the screening station.
TSA officers pat us down and send us to our gate location.

Hubby taps his watch pointing out our three-hour wait.
I smile unfazed by the time, as I hate being late.
Henry stares at a soldier and a girl’s neon tights.
He wanders over to the windows to check out the sights.

Hubby runs over to buy bottled water from an airport store.
As I guard Henry, a stroller, a car seat and bags galore.
When the announcement is made for an early boarding call,
We leap up with a cheer to line up against the wall.

At the plane’s door with Hubby, attendants and me right there,  
Henry walks across the threshold hugging his brown bear.
I scoop him up in the narrow aisle, so I can quickly find our seat.
We stow bags above our head and stuff Henry’s things at our feet.

All buckled in tight with trays upright, it becomes clear,
Hubby has second thoughts and doesn’t want to be here.
Ah, this is what I forgot:  Hubby doesn’t like to fly
I pat his leg and silently pray nothing goes awry.

Our plane takes off with us crammed in seats 26B and C,
When Hubby sees Santa by the window with a list on his knee.
Santa laughs with a twinkle in his eye and adjusts his light.
“No worries,” he says. “We’ll fly away and have a good flight.”

So, here's my note: 

I tried.

On Sunday, the local Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators group had a critique and holiday gathering. I took a version of this entry with brownies. I received kind feedback. The main one: Get the rhythm to match the original 'Twas the Night Before Christmas poem.

I pulled out my Poem Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry book and found a specific reference to the meter  — the anapest, which has a rising foot. The dust jacket says the book is for ages 9-13. I believe the book is in Greek, because I can't understand it. I'm stuck on how to fix the meter.

I changed my point of view, names and cleaned up a few lines. Thanks ladies at the Colorado Springs SCWBI meeting for the input, especially Debbie.

So, I ask: What's a good resource to study meter? I need an aha meter moment.

To enter the contest, post your story on your blog or in the comments section of Susanna's blog between today and Dec. 22.


  1. Stacey, this is such fun - I love your choice of story... somehow feels so true to life ;) Good on you on taking this to your critique group for input. I am impressed. I have some websites about rhythm and meter I can email after work tonight. One of the best things to do is tap the rhythm as you read this OUT LOUD... this helps me enormously. I loved your entry. Mine won't be up until Wednesday!

  2. You did awesomely, Stacy! You get lots and lots of bonus points for trying - it's HARD! I really like your choice of story, and the little details that make Henry seem so real (I may or may not be referring to diaper blowouts :)) and my husband HATES to fly (self-medicating is necessary just to enter the plane!) so I totally get that. Great job! Thanks so much for entering. And the link list is up now if you want to add your URL.

  3. @Joanna - I'll be over on Wednesday to check it out. If it's not too much trouble, I would appreciate those websites :)
    @Susanna - It is HARD! Thanks for the challenge.

  4. The only resource I have for poetry is Shellie Enteen. She's on the web, and she's connected to me through FB. I think your poem is fine the way it is.

  5. You did a great job Stacy! I enjoyed the theme of your poem. At least you tried. I enjoyed your post note too. Great to have your critique group input. This was fun. Will be interested in the other entries.

  6. That is lovely Stacy. I love that Santa pops in at the end too. I don't know if I made my lines as long as the original, you did a great job. I like Dori Chaconas's website for checking meter, it's on my side bar. Have you got Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul, there is a section on meter in there too. I don't usually check it properly for these contests - ssh! ;)

  7. I like it! You made me laugh at the visions of spit up line! :)

  8. The point of view really made it more personal (plus naming baby), and really upped the humor factor. Great job!


  9. Your friends gave you some great advice.
    Yikes...travelling with children...shudder.

  10. Stacy, boy did you hit the nail on the head in your description of the whirlwind that is the holiday season!!! I especially appreciated the referrals to spit ups and diaper blow outs, for these are the expereinces that make holiday travel with young ones oh so very memorable! Great job!

  11. @Karen - I will look Shellie up. Thank!
    @Patricia - I'm still making my way through the entries. Thanks.
    @Catherine - Glad you liked the Santa part. I thought he could easily calm the Hubby. I'll check Dori's site. Totally forgot to look in the Ann Whitford Paul book. I was so freaked out. :)
    @Coleen - Yes, spits ups are funny ... after the fact.
    @Debbie - Thanks for the helped.
    @Delores - It is a bit of a shudder, but I pray A LOT for the other passengers' sanity.
    @Elizabeth - Thanks. Lots of planning for body fluids, etc. when traveling with a kid.

  12. I thought your title was brilliant! And I liked how the tale evolved until trusty Santa appears at the end!

    True to life indeed. Every mom knows a diaper blowout WILL occur at the most inconvenient time and place. Like the airport. Been there, done that. Salt Lake City airport, 2001. Tossed the unsalvageable onsie in the trash.

    Ho ho ho. Happy travels to those brave enough to leave home!

  13. This is great, Stacy! I laughed when I read the "diaper blowout" line-not having children myself, I cannot imagine what a nightmare this would be on a crowded airplane!

  14. This is great (and funny)! I love the ending with Santa and his list! I have to ask did this really happen to you?

  15. Stacy! It's wonderful. I mean that. Bravo. Soooo cute!

    And bravo for taking it to your crit group meeting. I am so fiercely proud to know you. Getting the meter is hard. Believe me I should know - I am working on a rhyming picture book. The best advice I've ever had?? Read it out loud. Smooch! I hope your Christmas is the merriest! I'll miss you. <3

  16. Kudos, my friend.
    You wrote on something many moms could relate to ... and you tackled a well-known, much-loved poem.
    I wouldn't have even tried.

  17. Aw, you did great. So cute. I have no idea what resources to try to study meter, but for a challenge like this I don't think it matters so much. You told a great story and it rhymed.

    Enjoy your holidays!

  18. @Cathy - I know, but had to laugh as I can imagine the horror story when I read "Salt Lake City airport, 2001."
    @Kelly - I think diaper blowout may be universal.
    @Erik - Some is based on real life. Lots of Moms have shared travel advice, which just makes my imagination go wild in anticipation of what could happen.
    @Robyn - Thanks. I don't know that I'm brave for taking it to the crit group. It was the most recent "project," so I thought why not. :) Merry Christmas to you.
    @Beth - Thanks.
    @Brooke - True about the meter. Challenges like this just remind me of a weakness. I'm checking out the sites recommended by some here. So, I hope to improve. I'm learning a lot by reading the other entries.

  19. This is so funny. Thanks for the laughs. Great job and good luck.

  20. I definitely remember some diaper blow outs just as the plane was taking off! The good part about traveling with toddlers is they are only that age for a year or two!

    This was delightful, btw!

  21. Stacy, as we're boarding our own flight just after Christmas, I think I'll be reciting this poem in my head. Great work.

  22. @Johanna - Or that it becomes too expensive when they no longer travel for free. :)Thanks .
    @A2Z - Thanks. We'll hope we all have drama-free flights!

  23. This reminded me so much of two Christmases ago when we took our toddler son on an aeroplane. Very true to life.

    Well done for having a go at doing it in rhyme! It's certainly not easy, especially when it comes to meter. When I do rhyme I find reading it aloud gives you a good indicator of where the meter isn't working. Tapping it out as you read it can be helpful too.

  24. You did a great job! I can totally relate to this story. I remember a couple of flights just like this. :)

  25. I have a huge admiration for your desire to tackle meter for this contest. It is not an easy thing to do.

    Another site to try is Tiffany Strelitz Haber. I think she has one of the best explanations about meter out there.

    TtNBC is an anapestic quatrameter, which is ssS (think of that as two soft beats and one strong beat). Each Strong beat = a meter (hence quatrameter). It's called a rising meter because the tempo goes up rather than down.

    ssSssSssSssS = See how there are four capital S's?

    'Twas the NIGHT before CHRISTmas when ALL through the HOUSE.

    Hope that helps at least a little.

    Meanwhile, I thought your post was hilarious and relatable - good job!!

  26. Fun poem! I was nodding my head all the way from spit-up and diaper blowouts...

    Anyway, don't bug yourself about the rhythm and rhyme - didn't we write our entries in, like, a few hours? Ha! Not bad when you consider the challenge we've faced here!

    Good luck and Merry Christmas!

  27. @thegracefuldoe-Outloud and tapping seems to be the way to go.
    @Natalie - Thanks.
    @Julie- Thanks for the resource and the explanation. You are too kind.
    @Miranda-Ha ha in a few hours. Merry Christmas to you too.

  28. Really nice, Stacy. You told a story, humorous, fit in with the theme - I am so impressed.

    Not off to NOT write poetry.

  29. Stacy, you wrote a really cute story - meter can always be fixed! I second Catherine's suggestion of looking at Dori Chaconas' site - that's where I learned how to fix my meter problems! Here's a link:

  30. This is darling Stacy! Oh man - how I dread flights with young children, and especially around the holidays! So chaotic! I love how you have Santa in the plane tho! lol. That was a fun twist at the end. :) Great job!

  31. I agree wholeheartedly, Stacy, about the difficulty of setting the rhythm...thankfully I had my good friend, who is an English major, give me a few examples. Like you, I had to work and rework it! Good job...
    Traveling is such a task isn't it? You portrayed the preparations perfectly, and with humor. I don't think I could have tackled it as well. This is real life, isn't it??
    So nice of Santa to give your husband confidence to fly. A surprise ending!

  32. @Beverly - Thanks.
    @Lori - Thanks for the second on Dori Chaconas' site.
    @Abby - Thanks. Flights are chaotic with kids.
    @Jarm - Very glad you have an English major as a good friend. It actually turned out to be closer to real life than I expected. :)


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