Fred Astaire: Learning from the Experts

I have a little secret to confess. A few weekends ago, while my husband and son were camping with the Boy Scouts,  my 7 year-old and I watched Fred Astaire movies.  Friday night, it was “Let’s Dance”, a 1950 musical extravaganza co-starring Betty Hutton. Saturday, it was “Easter Parade” co-starring Judy Garland.

My daughter watched transfixed, giggling in awe, as Astaire danced on pianos, tipped chairs with magical finesse, and twirled his dancing partners who tapped right along side him in shiny shoes and swirling skirts. “Just like me!” my daughter declared. Then both nights, she jumped up and, in almost perfect imitation, joined in the dance numbers.

As writers, we, too, should indulge in our own versions of the Fred Astaire movie marathon. For me, that means reading, reading, reading!  Each week I lug home a bag full of picture books from the library. Some are classics I knew and loved as a child. Others are new books by contemporary authors. I read them to myself, to the kids, to the dog and as I do I analyze what makes them work or not. I examine each tap and twirl and leap of their story lines to figure out how they’re put together. I keep a little notebook beside me, to jot down what works and why. Then, tapping my fingers to the keyboard, I join in the tapping and twirling as I play with words and plot in my own stories, applying what I’ve learned from the experts. I treasure this special reading/writing time. How about you?  What’s your writerly version of the Fred Astaire movie marathon?

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10 thoughts on “Fred Astaire: Learning from the Experts

  1. I do what you do and with novels, as well. And you know–you have me thinking on poetry again. I don’t write it as much as I used to. Been thinking about it a lot lately. Maybe it’s time to start hauling home poetry collections. Fantastic post, thanks!!

  2. You’ve said it, Laura! Until last year, my daughter was still in those picture book years, so the reading reading and more reading would happen effortlessly. But now that she’s graduated to the chapter book series, I find myself spending more and more time at her school library browsing and lugging back, what are specifically, ‘my’ picture books! We have have our pb night cap together, of course, but that’s getting limited to just one book these days. The rest are devoured by me, hungrily:)

  3. Nice post. What’s better than shiny shoes and swirling skirts… and aspiring to be the best at what you do?! I lug a pile of picture books into the cafe at Barnes and Noble and devour them along with a salted caramel mocha. Fun. And yummy.

  4. I savor each moment my husband takes us to the English bookstore in Seoul, and I can read new picture books from the U.S. (How I miss my library in CA) I started taking notes about pb’s using Nancy Sanders’ pb critique form.

  5. I do still try to read just for the sake of enjoyment – although more and more I find myself analyzing the writing. I can’t shut it off! I also think reading helps when I’m in a creative slump. It exercises a different angle of my creative mind.

    My elder daughter would love those Astaire movies. She’s a big fan of Lawrence Welk, can you believe that? My five-year-old octogenarian.

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