One of my favorite poems by my grandma is “One Sheep.”
In truth, I have many “favorite” poems by my grandma. I was around 20 when I first read it online. The internet was just becoming a thing and my uncle posted all my grandma’s published work on his website.
I was manning a receptionist desk when I discovered “One Sheep” — reading it again and again while marveling how well she captured a sentiment I think nearly everyone can relate to.
Below is a scan of the poem, as originally published, followed by a recording of me reading it.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
One Sheep. All rights Reserved. Copyright 1941, 1997, 2019.
The 2016 election caused a bit of a social kerfuffle in the US.
Uncounted conversations with friends in the aftermath led me to this write this poem:
by: Sheralyn Pratt
It is old wisdom that the way to weaken a people is to get them to think outside their sphere of influence. If it’s beyond their horizon, it is but a play on a stage. Spectators can watch but they hold no true sway. They can only cheer or speak outrage to claims and hearsay —hands tied, thoughts bound to a place far away— until those far-away thoughts disrupt their own day-to-day. This is no accident. It is all a design to train the masses to have impotent minds. For unempowered souls are easily led and when the 99 feel helpless… well, you know what comes next. The good news is returning to power is a flip of a switch. Every animal does it— it’s that easy to fix: Tend to your sphere and all you can touch. See to its care and make it top-notch. Then, perhaps, if a call leads you to go far-and-wide, you can go, you can give, and improve what you find.
Ask anyone who’s known me all my life and they’ll attest to the fact that I have never self-identified as a poet.
Yet as I get to know the fictional characters I write for, I find myself describing their POVs (points of view) in poetic fashion.
Or, as I like to call it: Poetisophical™ — philosophical bedrock that allows you to deduce the state of heart.
This is a little different than traditional poetry, in my opinion. Maybe it’s actually poetry upside-down.
Poetry is known for its invitation to sit for a moment in someone else’s experience. Good poetry inspires sympathy or empathy in the listener — transporting them into a vicarious experience that allows them to see something in a new way.
My “poetisophical” poetry is a bit different in that the genesis is often the motives of fictional characters in a story. They might be the good guy, they might be the bad guy, or they might be some form of chaotic neutral in the middle.
But they have their points of view and their motives, and the poems I write often speak to the bedrock of their character.
Then, to beat the character in the story, you must beat their bedrock.
Here’s one such poetisophical poem that has most people split 50/50 on loving it and hating it.
What do you think?
By: Sheralyn Pratt
A truth becomes a lie the moment it arrives. For truth cannot be stopped —sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not— it holds its space and plays its part but holding still is not its art. For truth is on the move, you see, it has things to prove and places to be. So if you spot it once and proudly mark its plot, remember this: truth cannot be caught.
“Would you like a sample?” a weathered man asked, holding out a sample stick with a twirl of honey at the end.
I looked up from the display of beeswax candles and Mason jars of honey — belatedly noticing the woman playing the harp behind his booth.
The harpist was far enough away so the man didn’t have to talk over her, but close enough that it was a good bet that the gentle tones of her playing were what had caused me to pause at their booth in the first place.
And now the question was: Did I want to sample local honey while listening to harp music?
Okay. Twist my arm. This tagteam had officially talked me into it.
Next to me, another customer stepped up to make an order. A regular. He wanted two large jars of honey.
They only had one large jar left.
A swipe of a card later, they had zero large jars left. Only medium and small remained.
When that customer went on his way, a couple stepped up in his place.
“Would you like a sample?” the vendor asked. “This is our signature honey — harvested 800 colonies from across the valley to create a flavor reflecting the botanical spectrum of the valley.”
Okay, he didn’t say that.
But those were the tidbits my brain pieced together as he talked to customer after customer — making three separate sales while decided whether I needed more honey in my life.
How long had it been since I’d had honey any more elaborate than what came in a squeezable bear bottle at the grocery store?
Finding myself mining childhood memories for such a time, I realized it might be time to lean into rediscovering honey as a delicacy.
And what better place to start than a local business that had turned selling honey and beeswax candles into a multi-sensory, harp-accompanied sampling experience?
Gotta support that level of local quality, amiright?
I was about to buy one of their few remaining medium-sized jars when the vendor looked at my bag and saw flyers I was carrying with me.
“What you got there?” he asked, pointing to them.
“I’m hosting a writing contest,” I said. “and giving flyers to anyone who’s interested.”
The harp player took a break as I said this and moved into the booth. The man looked her way, “She’s a great poet.”
“I’d love to see your work,” I said to her, handing over a flyer. “Please, enter.”
She took the flyer, then surprised me by reaching for a jar of honey.
“Poetry is important,” she said. “It’s a good thing to keep alive. Here. Can we give something to the winner? Some honey for a gift basket?”
I must confess this wasn’t an idea I remotely had on my radar, but the offer was so sincere and the honey was so good that there was only one answer:
“Yes. Someone in the poetry category can win your honey. I’m not sure exactly how that will play out, but we’ll make that happen.”
And that’s why one lucky poet will get a small jar of honey this year in The BATTLE of the BARDS. Because a local honey company believes in the craft and wants to thank you for keeping it alive.
What is the difference between a fairy tale and a parable?
Are either type of story the same things as a fable?
All 3 of these story types are considered morality tales with the goal of helping people better understand the world around them and who they want to be in it.
But how do you tell which type of story you’re writing?
Ask Yourself 3 Questions
Question 1 – Are all my characters animals or insects?
Question 2 – Are some of my characters animals and some humans?
Question 3 – Are all my characters human?
Check Your Answers
If your answer to Question 1 = Yes, you are likely writing a FABLE.
If your answer to Question 1 = Yes, you are likely writing a FAIRY TALE.
If your answer to Question 3 = Yes, you are likely writing a PARABLE.
Checking your answer to Question 1 is a good thing to do before submitting to the BATTLE of the BARDS competition because there is no Fable category. Only Modern Fairy Tales and Modern Parables.
So, if all your characters are animals, you will need to change at least one of them to be a human for this contest.
While fables deal with straightforward actions and consequences in nature, fairy tales and parables invite us to examine the human motives that can put us in tough spots.
In traditional tales, these decisions can lead to terrible consequences — up to, and including, death.
Originally, Little Red dies. So does the little mermaid; she goes all-in for the man of her dreams, loses her voice and turns into seafoam (then an earthbound spirit) while the Prince marries someone more suitable.
In fairy tales, little kids get thrown into ovens, boys who cry wolf are left to fend for themselves, and boys seeking treasure end up murdering to acquire the wealth.
Actions and consequences. Fairy tales and parables both explore this theme.
So what’s the difference?
The quick take you can use that will guide you right in choosing the correct category of submission in The BATTLE of the BARDS is this:
Fairy tales share principles, based on an understanding of basic human/animal nature — incorporating both animal and human characters as metaphors.
Parables share principles couched in an understanding of human cultures and practices — where setting and roles can replace the laws of nature as being the first line of consequences the characters have to deal with.
For example, if you have a morality tale about a girl in the woods who runs into three animals, you probably have a fairy tale; if you have a morality tale about an inmate in a prison who has a run-in with three other inmates, you probably have a parable.
Parables require an understanding of cultural setting to explore the world the character lives in.
Fairy tales require an understanding of basic natures to explore the character’s journey.
So, to summarize:
What’s in a parable?
One of the first signs that you are writing a parable is:
All the characters driving the story are human.
Setting, culture, religion, politics, or cultural circumstances are embedded into the dominoes of the actions and consequences.
The more you know about the culture/dynamics a story is set in, the better you understand the arc and outcome of the parable.
Take the parable of the Ten Virgins, for example.
Understanding the culture the story is set in can change your understanding of the 5 prepared virgins not sharing their lamp oil from:
Why didn’t they just give their friends half? What difference does that make?
Why didn’t the five girls who had the $10 bills to get into the party just tear their bills in half and give the other half to their friends so they could all get in?
Because, in parables, cultural practices and situations are context to the dilemma presented.
What’s in a Fairy Tale?
Fairy tales explore the dynamics we can all relate to, using both humans and animals as metaphors.
Anyone from anywhere — human or not — can relate to a wolf being at their door.
Everyone can relate to the temptation to play rather than work, stray off a safe path for a bit, or wanting to escape an isolated tower.
The use of universal metaphors in fairy tales makes them easy to understand across time and cultures.
Because whether they’re talking about losing a mom and gaining a step-mother who only cares about her own children or underestimating wolves, there is a level of understanding that can be universally applied by the audience.
Summary: Parables and Fairy Tales — Similarities and Differences
The thing that parables and fairy tales have in common is that they invite discussion and reflection on things we deal with every day.
The main difference is that fairy tales invite all to examine our basic, universal natures while parables invite us to explore situational ethics.
Said another way: Fairy tales explore different actions and outcomes tied to our basic natures; parables dive into the morality of our cultures, practices, and more complex behaviors.
Thus, the challenge for the fairy tale/parable author is to see the dynamics and drives of each character with clarity that leaves personal bias on the cutting room floor.
Keep these tips in mind as you submit and your entry should be solid!
Want to start a conversation?
Think more/better information should be shared on this page?
Share this link on social media and tag me. Let me know if there are any other tips that MUST be included, and I’ll add them below.
When you’re in the business of doing a specific thing very well, partnering with symbiotic talent can result in a win-win situation.
Right now, a toy maker is in search of such an alliance with a seller who knows how to make money on handmade toys.
TOYMAKER ISO RETAIL SELLER
This toymaker is an elderly gentleman and a generational craftsman who makes all his toys out of reclaimed wood. One of the most captivating aspects of his builds is that all the moving parts work.
Wheels roll, levers lift, and doors open.
His toys aren’t static showpieces; they are meant to be played with.
A century ago, such toys might have been common. Today, they are a dying breed because no one makes them anymore.
Well, almost no one.
This craftsman can make the toys—including custom designs—and sell them to you at fixed, small-town prices. You can then mark them up as the market allows and sell them customers he can’t reach, due to age and other restrictions.
“What do the toys look like?” you ask.
Let’s take a look.
This is what you see when you walk into his remote shop.
You’ll notice that he has plenty to sell, but this is a good time to point out that he has enough inventory in storage to fill this shop 3X over.
Also, to get a sense of scale, take a moment to note of the semi trucks off to the right in the picture. Sizes of toys vary, but I would estimate that most of them average between 4″ to 7″ tall.
Keeping that in mind, here’s a closer look at a few of his designs.
His selection of construction toys are fun because, as mentioned before, everything that you want to play with does what it’s supposed to do. Levers lift, diggers dig, and wheels roll.
Take this dump truck, for example:
Or this carriage that sits on elastics that make the coach sway as it moves.
And if you’re wondering if the carriage door opens…
… yes, it does. All you need is a size-appropriate horse and you are on your way!
He’s got planes.
He’s got trains.
He’s got automobiles
He’s even got aircraft carriers.
But my favorite might be his semi trucks.
No joke, if I owned a semi company that gave out honors for drivers that hit benchmarks of excellence, I would buy him out, varnish them up, and put custom metallic placards on them.
Talk about an award everyone would actually want to get that might get passed down to future generations. It would be a killer way to build your brand.
There’s more I could show, but you get the idea: There’s a toymaker who lives 90 minutes from anywhere who reclaims wood and fashions it into old-school toys you really don’t find very often anymore.
On top of that, if you have a design you want, he’ll make it for you. Like this toy rifle a customer wanted:
Complete with crosshairs in the site:
He’s a man with skills looking for a partner who can take him to market.
Are you that partner? If so, contact me.
Are you not his partner, but know someone who might be? If so, share this post.
A few answers to FAQs:
use reclaimed wood
100% Made in the USA
have moving/functioning parts
are easily marked up from wholesale prices
Partner lives in a remote location
Partner has no internet communication
You will likely want to handpick inventory if you are a stickler when it comes to variations in quality
Want to know more and find out if there is a profitable work relationship in your future?
Follow and DM me (Sheralyn) on Instagram or Twitter, and let’s get a conversation started.