Birds NOT of a Feather

cardinal and blackbird flying to join him (640x427)In writing, we show action, then reaction. So when I saw the cowbird blackbird coming in for a landing, I figured the cardinal would fly right off. Blackbirds are known to be intimidating. This one is a female.

blackbird settling on seeds with cardinal (640x427) (2)Here she is settling down. Just like in our books, we should have unexpected twists and turns. For me, this meant the cardinal didn’t immediately fly off, but watched the blackbird settle on the feeder.

blackbird and cardinal at a standoff (640x427)Can you tell by the body posture that the blackbird is intimidating the male cardinal? He has his seed in his bill still, and he’s pondering leaving his find.  he doesn’t want to, but he’s still thinking about it.

cardinal flying away (640x427)With seed in bill, he takes off and the blackbird ignores him, the stare down working perfectly.

That was the black moment. Stay and eat more seed and ignore her, or intimidate her right back, or fly away with the last of the seeds he’d gathered, calling it a day.

This shows characterization. Oh, bird experts might say this shows bird behavior. But I assert it also shows characterization. Another male cardinal would have left the seed cache as soon as the blackbird came in for a landing. He stuck it out, thought it over, and decided to cut his losses.

Sometimes that’s what needs to be done. But if we want it enough, just like our lead character wants his or her objective enough, he will stay and win the day. Then again, this may have been the way for him to win the day. It all depends on how he feels about it. Defeated? Or a winner?

My daughter is a dietician at a big school district and numerous schools participated in a vegetable picture contest. I saw the top two contestants creations and they were great. Did the kids actually create them? Maybe, or maybe they had a LOT of help. And a lot of votes from the parents who were executives who could push more votes. We saw this when my daughter was in Girl Scouts and any number of other competitions.

But what’s important? Winning first place? Or doing it yourself and feeling good about yourself? Both parents were in an uproar bashing the other parent because of their positions in society–he’s going to win because of who he is. She’s going to win because of who she is. Wait! Where are the kids in the equation? When we write children’s books, young adult books, the kids have to accomplish whatever their goal is. Who wants to hear that junior’s dad saved the day? Then it’s the dad’s story, not junior’s.

When I was a teen in home economics, had to take it back then, I learned to sew. My mother and grandmother didn’t sew. That meant I had no help at home. I picked the simplest dresses I could make because we had to do this on our own, and then we had to wear one of them in a fashion contest. Some of the girls had mothers who really sewed and they were making dresses with jackets and though I was envious I didn’t have the fancy outfits like theirs, I was always really proud of myself for making my own clothes without any help from anyone. The “A” I got was for me, not anyone else.

Sugar Plum Fairy-15 inch Mohair

Sugar Plum Fairy-15 inch Mohair

And from that little beginning, I eventually created bears that won all kinds of awards and were featured in magazines and newspapers, including Texas Monthly!

So I’m proud of the cardinal. He made his choice, his alone, no one to help him out, and to me, he won, seed in bill, and he’ll return again soon.

Have a great day and always give it your best shot–that’s all we can ever do. And don’t put too much stock in what others are doing. It’s your journey, your way.


“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy is reality.”

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Wilde & Woolly Bears



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