Category: Blog

Life in Bancroft Hall during Coronavirus…

***Originally posted on Facebook @Chester Midshipmouse 3/26/20.  Update:  The midshipmen at USNA are finishing the semester utilizing distance learning, and very sadly, Commissioning Week has been cancelled.  Utmost sympathy to the mids and their families who more than earned a grand celebration during their four years “by the bay”.

Four thousand midshipmen who normally live within the walls of Bancroft Hall, affectionately known as “Mother B”, have remained home following Spring break due to the coronavirus, leaving a scant two dozen who remain for various reasons, along with six battalions of…mice.  Behind the massive stone walls it is business as usual for the midshipmice as they follow standard procedure for “Procurement” (a class every plebe mouse is required to take).  This is the reassurance I provided on a recent USNA Parents Facebook page when someone expressed the concern of their midshipman who had left some oatmeal in his dormitory room.  Rations.  Chester sends his thanks.

One of the many phrases taught at the Naval Academy is  Adapt, Improvise and Overcome.  In all seriousness, that is what the brigade of midshipmen is being called upon to do right now.

I leave you with a character study of Bodie on Induction Night.  He arrived unused to wearing a uniform and with barnyard manners, which he was soon divested of thanks to some dedicated detailers.  It is important to note here that the author had great difficulty in figuring out how to paint mice in trousers, let alone how to paint mice.  I am consoled by the words of one of the illustrators of the wonderful Redwall book series who told me that he had Great Difficulty in painting mice and usually placed them in a corner of a scene “eating a scone”.  True story. Thankfully I had a talented artist who illustrated Chester Midshipmouse book one.  Stay tuned for  exciting news regarding who may be illustrating book two!

The important goal for Bodie was to envision him as a new plebe in his unaccustomed white works, eating like a slob (that crunchy morsel was obtained in room 5016, by the way), for which he got in Great Trouble.

Susan Weisberg- Author

WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?

This is a question that is not as simple to answer as one might think. Last summer it became my go-to conversation starter in order to test a new discovery—our funniest stories are most often those derived from embarrassing moments.

Can you recollect a laugh-out-loud situation that did not involve a blush or cringe? I tested my supposition on several people. Family and friends received the question, reacted with anticipatory grins, pondered, then soon replaced their smiles with perplexed expressions. Most said, “well, I don’t know…what was yours?”
Why is this so difficult?

If you can conjure up a really hysterical story that does not involve acute mortification, I would love to hear it. Email me (sweisberg@brassbuttonbooks.com) the funniest thing that ever happened to you and perhaps I might share it.

Chester remembers a funny incident. It happened when he was just a little rodent growing up in the mouse household. Here is how it was told to me:
Chester and his buddy Theo asked permission to build their first catapult. They gathered rudimentary supplies: wooden sticks, a white plastic spoon with a crust of pooled coffee in the bowl, and a strong rubber band. (Have you ever noticed how mice are copious users of rubber bands? It’s no wonder that Chester’s favorite pop song is Strings and Strands and Rubber Bands. You can find the first stanza in Chester Midshipmouse. Maybe someday I’ll publish the rest of the lyrics here.) Chester and Theo constructed a simple catapult and decided to test it out in a corner of the Gathering Hall. The only appropriately shaped projectile they could find that Chester’s mama would allow was a green olive stuffed with red pimiento. Stretching the twisted rubber band until taut, they aimed the contraption across the living space and let her fly, expecting a gentle, arcing lob. Unfortunately, just as they released the spoon launcher, Mr. Dash strolled by on all fours, thinking his thoughts. The olive flew in a line drive and took him out in a direct shot to the head—leaving smashed green and red bits everywhere. His poor mate, Miss Beatrice, saw the whole thing and passed out in a dead faint. When she came to, she was heard to say, “I thought those were his brains!”
Being well brought up mice, Chester and Theo got a good talking to and were required to make apologies. Later on, it was reported that there were smothered shouts of laughter heard from Theo’s nest, where the two friends gathered to talk over the whole episode.
So, that’s Chester’s story, at least as it was relayed to me. What’s yours? What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you?

 

Dont Crowd The Pan

Sage advice for writers as well as cooks; “don’t crowd the pan” (you can quote me). Every new chapter in a book is best approached like a wiped out, heavy-duty Calphalon skillet ready for the next group of ingredients.

Sauté in small batches.  The result will be a well-cooked, crispy product, melded and yet retaining differential parts. Keep one ingredient constant. For  me at home that’s shallots, in the story it’s Chester.

This writing/cooking truth has clarified (another cooking term) an issue that cropped up while writing Book Two in the Chester Midshipmouse series. There are so many potential characters found in a setting that contains thousands of mice. This mass of rodentia is important to the narrative, but their individual stories are not. Newer characters appear and old favorites must step back, for the time being, in order to allow our hero to investigate and grow through the next phase of his training at the United States Naval Mouse Academy.  Still, the aromatic mirepoix of Chester, Dilly and Ranger remains at the center of the story-a redoubtable trio- ready to flavor the tale. I’m not sure that Dilly and Ranger would appreciate being described as a celery stick or a carrot, but they certainly would enjoy munching on one.

Right here I just heard the voice of Chester’s little brother Bean in my head.

“What’s a mirepoix?” he asks in frustration.

“Look it up, Bean,” Chester replies, with just a hint of self-importance.

Chester’s adventures continue. By Chapter Two, who do you think crops up without an invitation? Spleen, of course. Like a…Well, I’m still trying to think of a culinary analogy for this older midshipmouse’s caustic presence. Like a bone in a piece of fish? No. Maybe you will come up with one.