Writing and blogging ideas are all around us, if we just keep our ear to the ground. This week, I’ve been thinking about kid lit a lot. Children’s literature has a rich past and a ripe future.
This Saturday, March 2, is Dr. Seuss’s 109th birthday. And though he died at age 87, his legacy lives on through his many, many books. And every March for the last 16 years, on the day closest to his birthday, schools nationwide have a Read Across America event.
When I taught first graders, everyone came to school in their pajamas, including teachers, the principal and other staff. We hung out with our pillows and stuffed animals and spent much of the day on the carpet, reading Dr. S’s masterpieces.
Did you know that there are even things Dr. Seuss can teach us about blogging?
Fairy tales are another delightful sub-genre of children’s literature. In the Build Your Author Platform class I’m taking, I had the pleasure of meeting Hong Tran, a middle grade fantasy author who helps kids learn about different cultures through fairy tale retellings.
As I thought more about Hong Tran’s work, it reminded me of a post I wrote for For Bloggers By Bloggers. Today, I’m looking back at that post, to lessons the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin can teach us about how not to blog (or live, for that matter).
Because, frankly, every character in this story screwed up—and more than once.
The Story of Rumpelstiltskin
Do you remember Rumpelstiltskin, from school, or from reading it to your own child?
In the story, a miller is so full of himself that he boasts to the king that his beautiful daughter can spin straw into gold.
The king says, “Bring her to me.”
The miller’s daughter is put into a room filled with straw and told that if she hasn’t spun the straw into gold by dawn, she will die.
She is saved by a grotesque little man—called a manikin in the story— who visits her and helps her spin the straw into gold three times. Once for her necklace, once for her ring, and finally—because the king says he will marry her if she pulls off the straw-to-gold thing the third time— for the promise of her first-born child.
A year later, when her son is born, she gets a revisit from the manikin. The daughter, who is now the queen, sobs bitterly. The manikin feels sorry for her and says that if she can guess his name in three days, she can keep the child.
The queen’s servant scours the land and spies on the manikin dancing in front of a fire, singing a song that ends with his name. Not quite the equivalent of going on Twitter with the announcement, but, still, it was a pretty stupid thing to do.
With this information, the queen “guesses” his name and the manikin gets so upset he “tears himself in two.” That’s a pretty “grim” story ending.
There are so many things wrong here, on so many levels.
A man puts his daughter at risk for death for no good reason, telling the lie that she can spin straw into gold.
A king cares more about “stuff” than human life.
A daughter marries a man who threatened her life and wants her only for her gold.What will she do if the king demands more spun gold, like on their honeymoon in the south of France? Did she really think this thing through?
And what’s up with the mean little manikin guy, who has all these magical powers, yet all he wants is a human baby?
What can this story teach us about blogging?
I’m thinking, except maybe for Rumpelstiltskin, if we do the exact opposite of the way these characters behave, we have a blueprint for blogging success.
5 blogging lessons from Rumpelstiltskin
1. Leave your ego at the doorstep.
The miller’s mistake: He is full of himself, boasting about his daughter, “in order to appear to be a person of some importance.” He jeopardizes his daughter’s life, then bows out of the story. We never see him again.
My lesson: My blog will not be all about me. I will focus on what my readers need and give them as much help as I can. And when I can, I will help others shine.
2. Be a giver, not a taker.
The king’s mistake: He had all kinds of riches, but “his heart only lusted for more.” It was always all about him and what he wanted.
My lesson: I will give freely on my blog. Offer solutions. Ask what else my readers need.
3. Don’t take credit for other people’s contributions.
The daughter’s mistake: To stay alive, she lied big time. And it almost caught up with her in the end. Who knows what happened after the weird little guy tore himself in two? Maybe the king saw through her and divorced her.
My lesson: I will acknowledge other people’s contributions to my blog—readers and other bloggers alike. I will help spread other people’s good ideas on my blog.
4. Put yourself in other people’s shoes.
What Rumpelstiltskin did right: I know. He is the villain in this story. But when the queen begins to sob, the story says “he feels sorry for her.” He offers a gesture. He won’t take the baby if she can guess his name in three days.
My lesson: On my blog, I will try to understand all points of view. I will feel my readers’ pain and try to help them solve their problems. And I will always give people a second chance.
5. It helps to have a memorable name.
Okay, this one might actually work. I think a blog called Rumpelstiltskin.com has a nice ring to it. The little guy was trying to hide his name, but it’s unique. Memorable. Fun to say. Maybe a little hard to spell and not so search engine-friendly, though.
What about you?
Do you see other blogging lessons in Rumpelstiltskin?