Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cookie Warfare.

One fun part of the writing process is weaving funny events from your real life into your stories. Especially when the reality is stranger than fiction and everyone assumes you just made it up.
This is the case with the Sammy Keyes book I'm working on now. As those of you who read the series know, Dot DeVries is one of Sammy's friends, and her parents are from Holland.
My son has asked me in the past why Dot was even one of Sammy's friends because she doesn't have a big role in most of the books, and he has a point. But the reality is, it's hard to have scenes with too many friends. The dialog gets bogged down with attributions, and it just gets messy and cumbersome.
So it's true that Dot has taken a back seat for many of the books, but I couldn't just write her out because I've known since the fifth book that Sammy would be going to Dot's house the first week of December of this (her eighth grade) year for the DeVries' Dutch celebration of Sinter Klaas.
That was ten books ago.
It's finally time!
Now, the way the traditional Dutch family celebrates Sinter Klaas is a MUCH milder version of the one the Van Draanen family ramped up to when we were teenagers. Traditionally, you put your shoes out by the fireplace with carrots and apples for Sinter Klaas's horse and sing a little Dutch song. In the morning Sinter Klaas has exchanged the carrots and apples for Dutch treats. This goes on for the first four days of December, and on the 5th of December Sinter Klaas tosses cookies through the ceiling and leaves a small gift for you at the door.
Yes, that's right. Cookies come through the ceiling.
Now, I'm not going to go into the details of how this happens or my family's adaptation of this quaint custom, but I will tell you that what you'll read about in the story is very much how the events played out in the Van Draanen household.
It starts with carrots in the shoes and ends in cookie warfare.
I'm sure anyone reading the story (Dutch or not) would think the scenes are the result of an overly active imagination on the author's part, but I know (and my family will know), that, yeah, that was pretty much the way we "celebrated."
I like this part of writing. The slipping in of scenes--or even just phrases--that are like a private tribute to special people or a special time in your life. And even though my husband's not Dutch, we've carried on the Van Draanen adaptation of Sinter Klaas here at home. It's just fun.
Actually, wild is a much better description.
And throughout the year as I find little cookies in light fixtures and on top of hutches and behind the refrigerator, it reminds me of fun times, now and then.
So I'm looking forward to having this "cultural activity" documented in a book. I think it'll be pretty cool on several levels, including being able to point to the book and say "Read Chapter 3" to my sons' future wives.
After all, it's important that they understand what they're getting into.
Dutch or not, there's no getting out of cookie warfare.
Er, I mean Sinter Klaas.


Mary said...

The idea of your sons' future wives is a bit frightening. But I am glad you are already preparing yourself for them!

I love that you insert these tidbits from your life. For me it adds a whole new dimension to the story that somehow makes me feel closer to home!

I didn't comment on last week's post about you and Mark, but thank you for writing it! Today is my seventh anniversary and marrying D is still the best thing I have ever done! Unwavering support is a truly amazing thing and should be recognized more!

Anonymous said...

hi wendelin!!! that sound so awesome!!!!! i truly cannot wait for it!!! it is so great that you include those little moments that you can look back and say "i remember that!!!" that is TOTALLY what i want to convey if i become a writer, which is definitely an option!!! but anywhooo have you released when the next sammy keyes book is coming out?? i believe its night of skulls? if you have ANY idea please respond!!!!!
i'll check back later for more blogs!!!!!!

poojadimba said...

Wow can't wait to read that book! The fifth book was one of my favorites... especially when they describe eating the food at Dot's!

Sooo can you give us any hint about when the 14th book is coming out??

Great Post!

Tim said...

LOVED THE POST!!!!! I love when you give little pieces of info about upcoming Sammy books! I totally loved the 5th book, and think you have the perfect amount of Dot in each book! Sinter Klaas sounds like so much fun and wish I could celebrate it too! Really cool post! Ill keep checkin' back for new ones! (BTW i also am wondering when night of skulls is coming out, hope not to long a wait :]) TTYL
-Ginngle11 :)

Alexa said...

Wow, that sounds fun. Cookie warfare.... COOL!

I CANNOT wait for the next Sammy Keyes book! I hope it comes out soon......


Anonymous said...

I cannot wait to see/read about Dot again! I loved learning about her in the earlier books. She's such a good character, and clearly a good friend of Sammy's. I know what you mean about keeping the characters cut back to save the dialogue. I've run into that problem with a story that has nine main characters...silly, but true. Anyway, the Sinter Klaus (I probably spelt that wrong) sounds amazing. Happy writing! See you SUnday!

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on Dot: I've always loved Dot and her big family. I have five siblings myself, so I've always tried searching out characters whose families I could identify with (Sharon Creech's "Absolutely Normal Chaos" being the winner, thus far).

So, though Dot's not present as often as I would like, I've always been very glad for her character. Most of my friends have (at most) three siblings, so know there is someone, albeit fictional, who has an understanding is something I appreciate ... even though I'm in my early 20s now (I did start reading these books during middle school though. :]).

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments! (Mary, it's hard to believe it's been 7 years, wow.)Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls will be out in October. Seems like a long ways off, I know, but it's already the middle of February. (Unbelievable!) See you next week!