09 September 2013

Of Love and Sardines and Chocolate

by Fran Rizer

Leigh Lundin reminded us that SleuthSayers will be two years old on September 17, 2013, and asked each of us to write about the anniversary of its birth.   </

What should I write about?

How about the unusual birthday customs of other lands?  I know a lot about that because I taught ESL classes and frequently bought birthday cakes for students who'd never had one before.  To be honest, writing about that idea fell flat because it was too much like writing a lesson plan.

SleuthSayers is "A criminally compelling website by professional crime writers and crime fighters," but there's more to this spot than that. We've had posts about authors, explosives, undercover police procedures (some funny, some scary), writers' seminars, swimming in the ocean, book reviews, computers, publications and awards, movies, lists, and more. I even wrote about bras near Christmas last year.  As Robert Earl Keen, Jr., wrote "The road goes on forever."

Sometimes the blogs are about specific problems encountered by writers.  One of my difficulties relates to similes and metaphors.

The problem is two-fold.  I over-react to writers who don't know the difference between a simile and a metaphor because that's taught in fourth grade, and I don't use as many metaphors as others because, quite simply, mine seem weak and I generally delete them before reaching my final revision.  

A gentle reminder, dear reader:  Both similes and metaphors are comparisons with the primary difference being that a simile uses the words like or as.  Examples:  "The clouds are like cotton candy in the sky" is a simile.  "The clouds are cotton candy in the sky" is a metaphor.

When I taught fourth and fifth grades, I always taught similes around Valentine's Day and introduced the topic with Robert Burns's "My love is like a red, red rose."  The students loved hearing about Burns's life. (What other teacher discussed pubs with them?)  Then they wrote poems beginning with "My love is like..."  Their homework was to find an example of a simile.

By far the most common example given on homework papers was the quote that Forrest Gump attributed to his mother:

Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get.

Allan Rufus gave us this:

Life is like a sandwich                   
Birth is one slice 
and death is the other.
What you put in between
the slices is up to you.

My delight with the student who brought in the next one can be attributed to what many of my friends call my "quirky" sense of humor.

                               Alan Bennett wrote:

Life is rather like a tin of sardines--we're all of us looking for the key.

My absolute favorite though is from the late Leo Buscaglia in one of my favorite nonfiction books, Living, Loving, and Learning:
Leo Buscaglia

I love to think that the day you're born, you're given the world as your birthday present.  It frightens me to think that so few people even bother to open up the ribbon!  Rip it open!  Tear off the top! It's just full of love and magic and joy and wonder and pain and tears.  All of the things that are your gift for being human.

In its two years' of life, SleuthSayers has become, in its own way, like both a box of chocolates and a beautifully wrapped gift. You never know what you'll find when you open it, but you can depend on finding something good. 

I'm proud to have been part of it!  

Until we meet again...take care of you!


  1. Nice piece. My favorite simile is from Douglas Adams. In one of his books a character dreams of meeting a sea creature that has just evolved sentience. It asks what life is and our hero replies "Life... is like a grapefruit. It's orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast.". The newly evolved being then asks if there is anyone else available to talk to.

  2. That's a good one, Rob. I like it better than the onion.

  3. Great post, Fran. Sorry I was under the weather when you put it up, and couldn't comment.

    I'd add my own paraphrase of a favorite Adams quote: "The great yellow Vogan ships hung, suspended, floating in the sky -- much in the same way that bricks DON'T."


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