My son’s private little secret is now public–in the January issue of Columbus Monthly.
The Body Brigade moved from Danny’s imaginative way to get me to give him dessert, to the back page column in Monthly called “Finale” (see below). It’s a little narrative about the Lilliputian-sized people who Danny says live in his body and coordinate all his bodily functions–most specifically manage his “dessert stomach.”
It’s kind of personal, but Danny was OK with the exposure. I thought it showed his sense of self, and his sense of humor, and I hoped some people might find it charming and amusing.
Danny liked the fact I promised to give him the $100 I’d earn if it was picked up.
And for my students, this is a perfect example of writing what’s in front of you and looking for story ideas everywhere.
I love to find story ideas, even though many of them might not result in publication. As a freelance writer, I get paid on my ideas, and how well I sell them–and myself–to an editor.
I’m fortunate now to enjoy a fulfilling and reciprocal relationship with some wonderful editors–Ray Paprocki at Columbus Monthly, Lynne Bonenberger at the Ohio State Alumni Magazine, Travis Hoewischer at (614), Harold Howe at The Harness Edge, Dave Briggs at Canadian Sportsman and Laurie Prinz at Equus, to name some of my favorites. They graciously listen when I pitch; I always say yes when they have an assignment.
But I have got to have the idea that fits their publication and will benefit their readers–fully developed yet open to editor input, with available sources, and the time and willingness to execute–for them to even consider buying my pitch.
Finding ideas is the hardest part of being a writer, as my students are no doubt finding. I know I say they are right in front of you, but you really do have to know how to look. Some recent examples:
1. I saw a Lantern article on a successful alum. so I immediately emailed Lynne Bonenberger to see if she would like me to do a profile.
2. In talking with a friend I found out her husband is best friends with an NHL legend who was forced to retire due to injury and is not often heard from. I immediately started talking to them about a possible profile for the city magazine where he played.
3. My dog recently suffered a neck injury that resulted in him being crate boun for two weeks! It was awful, but I thought someone else might learn from our experience, so I am pitching a story to dog magazines on how to keep your dog entertained on crate rest, and other incarnations (dog neck injuries, best crates, etc.).
Or sometimes the story just comes from one little boy trying to con his mother into giving him dessert, even though he didn’t feel that hungry during dinner.
And when he tells you that the workers in his dessert stomach are going to suffer layoffs if you don’t cough up the cookies, start taking some notes.
A TALE OF TWO STOMACHS
By Nicole Kraft
Columbus Monthly January 2012 issue
The carrot sits half gnawed on a picked through bed of salad greens. Applesauce clings in frosting-like blobs to the sides of a small bowl. A lone bite of chicken lies stranded amid the sea of the blue plate. And, invariably, the question comes: “Can I have dessert?”
My 10-year-old son, Danny, is not alone in his affection for the post-dinner confections that seem to put a contented sigh on any meal. But what impresses me most is no matter how much—or how little—he eats, he always says he has room for a peanut butter and chocolate Newman-Os, a dunker from Trader’s Joe’s or, when he’s really lucky, a stop by the Groovy Spoon for a do-it-yourself yogurt concoction. (“It has probiotics,” he tells me, as if he has any idea what that does for him.)
As someone who does not crave dessert, I couldn’t fathom how a child who struggles to recall which day to take out the trash or locate a library book six inches from his hand continually remembers—and finds room for—dessert after every dinner.
It is, he explains, a key component of his internal workforce. Yes, workforce.
And so I was introduced to the Body Brigade.
Danny says that the Body Brigade is a fleet of Lilliputian-sized people who operate his bodily activities every day. And among the busiest are the crews that staff the two branch offices of his stomachs—one for regular meals and one for dessert.
It’s the Brigade members, he tells me, who decide when Danny gets hungry and what he likes to eat. While the main-meal workers are on the clock starting around 7 am, the dessert crew is in prep mode, but it jumps into action as soon as dinner duties are completed.
The treat team then gets the dessert stomach fired up and in gear, and by committee vote chooses just which sweets the boy’s body needs.
The stomach staffs are hard-working groups, but they’re far from alone in the body, Danny says. There actually are workers in every segment—making hair grow, stitching up scrapes and cuts, helping those baby teeth break free from their moorings and guiding permanent teeth into place.
Danny even has a special crew working overtime maintaining the braces he wore from July 2010 through December—those teeth don’t straighten on their own, you know.
When I point out to Danny that these workers must get pretty tired of working day after day, year after year, without even Christmas or Thanksgiving off, he says new workers are being hired regularly.
Each growth spurt leads to a hiring wave; they come in via the water supply. Trainees get the easy jobs, such as making snot, while older workers get slower, easier jobs, such as toenail growth.
The most coveted job, by far, is the dessert team that preps the sweets stomach for its one big moment of the day—when it anticipates, sets the agenda for and receives the manna from, well, Mom.
And that, Danny says, is where I have been causing some labor problems.
There is no room for error—or slackers—in the dessert stomach, and when a treat is not forthcoming (as punishment; when we are traveling; if I forget), the managers perceive that the dessert stomach is not working up to its performance standards.
The result: Layoffs.
No reassignments—just dismissal.
And you can only imagine the route the displaced workers have to take to get out of that part of the body.
Unless I want Danny’s own unemployment rate to climb to uncomfortable numbers, he says, I better get with the program and start infusing them with some capital—preferably in the currency of chocolate.
Guess I better start banking the Newman-Os for tough economic times ahead.