Miss Instigator 2011

I blame Saturday morning cartoons.

Even my teenage fairy goddaughters agree: cartoons today stink. The mid-eighties were the best time to be a kid on Saturday morning. Jem, Kid Video, Dungeons & Dragons, The Gummi Bears, The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby Doo, Strawberry Shortcake (the original, non-crappy version)…the list goes on. You have a favorite. You know which one. (Feel free to post it in the comments!)

Even our commercials were cooler. McDonald’s pulled a Weird Al Yankovic on “Für Elise,” the Schoolhouse rocked,  and Fruit Wheats was the “in” cereal. Nowadays, all the fairy goddaughters know is which horrible prescription medication can get them a piece of a civil lawsuit and how much they can save on car insurance.

My little sister and I ate up those cartoons. We’d watch for hours on the weekends. After the VCR was invented (yes, shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs), we taped them and watched them over and over again during the week. Sometimes we even just watched the commercials over and over again. We got the dolls and the records and the happy meal toys, and we’d color in our Jem coloring books while we watched more shows.

Looking back now, I realize what a lot of those cartoons had in common: a family. Not just a blood-related family–sometimes it was simply a band of mismatched misfits (and in Jem‘s case, literally) who were thrown together and, using their combined forces, became awesome. My sister and I wanted to be a part of something like that, a club, secret or not, that was even cooler than our already-cool family who went on infamous European vacations and threw the best parties. And we weren’t alone.

So we rounded up the kids on the court–Me, Soteria, Devin, Megan, Chris, Allison, and whoever happened to be at our houses that weekend–and we made teams. Secret societies. Clubs. There was one where we all had posh names like Clarissa and Penelope and “Mudd; James Mudd” and we’d run around the yard talking to each other in falsetto British accents. One time, Devin and Megan had so many cousins over that I couldn’t remember all their names, so I called them “Spike” and “Jeremy” and “Webster Poom”…and then I made up new names for the rest of us.

One of the best clubs was the Thundercats Club. I designed colorful ID cards with our names on them and then laminated them in clear shelf paper, the same way Mom laminated her recipe cards–one of my greatest ideas EVER. I made a lot of ID cards for a lot of clubs that year. One of my friends from Elementary School contacted me on Facebook a while back and told me how proud she was that she still had hers.

Deep down, I think we all want that in some way: to belong. To have a family. To be part of something bigger and much cooler than yourself (and it always helps if you have superpowers). To be in a circle of likeminded misfits that just want to make the world a better place and plan to have fun doing it. This desire doesn’t stop as we grow older, it just turns into quilting circles and dart leagues and actual families we create from our wombs. The only difference is, nobody takes the time to make painstakingly hand-illustrated ID cards anymore.

Last month, I attended my very first Washington Romance Writers retreat here in Leesburg, VA. My number one goal? To make friends. I mean, not only were all these women also writers, but most of them also lived within coffee-drinking distance. There were roughly 110 attendees (we got a list). By the end of the weekend, one of these women was going to be my new best friend. Or else.

But I noticed something as I smiled my dazzling smile and introduced myself to one and all: a lot of women were also first-timers. A whole lot. Like, more than ten percent. Every time I turned around, I saw a new badge with a little blue “1st” ribbon sticking out of the bottom. Like me, these women were also beautiful and enthusiastic. They were a diverse group who wrote about diverse topics in a range of genres. Each one was at a unique stage in her writing career, but we all had the same goals: to have a writing career. And to make friends.

That weekend ended far too soon. I didn’t want to say goodbye and let it all go. And the minute I started my car in the parking lot I had one thought: I had to make a club. I needed to dust off those wild, impulsive instigator impulses and find a way to keep us all together. The coolest thing about this little epiphany was realizing just how far we could take it. This is, after all, the twenty-first century. Code names have become avatars and ID cards turned into website pages and lapel pins. We’ve come a long way from the eighties, baby.

And so, without further ado: World, I would like to introduce you to The Waterworld Mermaids. You guys are gonna love this.

Please enjoy your Saturday morning.

14 thoughts on “Miss Instigator 2011

  1. What a perfect post to read while I drink my coffee on a cloudy Saturday morning. Alas, I have VH1 music countdown (shock – they actually play music videos for 2 hours) on in the background. But I’m remembering my favorite Saturday morning cartoon. It was and always will be the original Scooby Doo. That’s my boy!

    Happy to be a part of this Mermaid family. Happy Saturday, everyone!

  2. Lee – You rock and you know how much I love ya! Thanks for being the instigator.

    I bought all of the Schoolhouse Rock videos and music – my kids love them – the seventies gave us more than bell bottoms and disco!

  3. You go, girls!!!!
    I think it is terrific that you banded together as a result of the Retreat. With the support of friends, you can reach any goal you set for yourself.

    I know from personal experience that the friendships you make through WRW will enrich your lives in countless ways. The Water World Mermaids is an inspired idea, but you have no idea how meaningful it may ultimately be!

  4. Form of a Waterworld Mermaid? The super heroes were one of my favorites too.

    Best wishes to the Waterworld Mermaids! As I said before, magic can happen at the WRW Retreat. The monthly meetings can rock too. Best wishes to all the Waterworld Mermaids.

  5. Now I’m totally bummed I wasn’t a newbie at this year’s retreat!! What a wonderful idea. Good luck and good writing to you all.

  6. My first thoughts of retreat were that it was going to be like going away to sixth grade camp but for grown ladies (and one gentleman). I didn’t actually get to do that sixth grade right of passage…retreat made up for it in spades. Then I wasn’t sure how to keep up with all the wonderful people I met and was thrilled, honored and humbled all at once when I got the email asking if I’d like to be a fellow first timer mermaid. I look forward to knowing you ladies a long long time….mermaids for life! Jem, Jem is truly outrageous, truly truly truly outrageous, oh oh oh oh Jem! Sing along everybody…haven’t thought of that in years!

  7. Great post, Alethea. That retreat made my year, and I am so excited about being a member of the Waterworld Mermaids. I’m really going to enjoy getting to know all of the Mermaids as we go on this journey.

  8. Hey Fellow Mermaids!
    Just replying even though it’s Sunday morning . . . sorry for the late join.
    Loved retreat! Learned so much in just a few days and met so many wonderful people. (It was more than just my first WRW retreat–it was my very first retreat ever for RWA!)
    Wow! All those cartoons bring back wonderful memories. I know I’m going to date myself but I loved the original Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show, BayCity Rollers, Big John/Little John (live action about a guy who finds the fountain of youth), Shazam/Isis and Ark II. If anyone remembers those–please tell me I’m not crazy. Very few people remember them. I also learned what a noun was and still sing the songs from School House Rock as I think about my writing at times. (My husband’s name is Bill so our first trip into DC–guess where I took a picture of him–you guessed it ‘sitting on Capitol Hill.)

    But I also liked to watch all the afternoon spaghetti westerns: Alias Smith and Jones, Wild, Wild, West, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, etc. And didn’t they have some great Saturday afternoon movies too. That was when TV was worth watching! Now we take it for granted because everything is at our fingertips instead of the anticipation of waiting for a special moment for mom to bring out the popcorn and sodas for an afternoon of the classics–The Wizard of Oz, or Sound of Music, or perhaps an old Doris Day movie. Ahhhh… simpler times.
    Hugs to all my mermaid friends!

  9. Hello Mermaids!
    Alethea, what a fabulous way to kick this off. You brought back some fond memories. I spent a lot of Saturday mornings poised in front of the family television watching the Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show and Scooby Doo. The original of course. All I have to do is hear the theme song… Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you. We’ve got some work to do now… and all of those wonderful memories come rushing back. My children are still totally stupified that we only had three channels and cartoons ONLY came on on Saturday mornings. How funny? I keep telling them we got more channels right after we finished slaying the dinosaurs…
    It was such a pleasure to meet so many special and talented people at the WRW Retreat this year. I look forward to getting to know each of you better and developing many long and lasting friendships.

  10. I was a big fan of Thundarr the Barbarian (“Ariel! Ookla! Ride!!!”) but I actually fell a teensy bit in love with The Pirates of Darkwater. It came out in ’91, but it still had that mid-80’s feel.

    I have the action figures. And the ship. ‘Cause I’m a geek like that. 😀

  11. Love it. I’m going to be late to the party usually (with responses and such) but I’m always around in spirit. Can’t wait to see what others write.

  12. “Captain Planet, He’s our hero, Gonna take pollution down to zero!” And in my time, we also had the awesome live-action kid stuff on Saturday mornings: “Oh mighty Isis!” and “Shazam!”

    Anybody remember Kimba the Whie Lion? And Josie and the Pussycats? Lidsville? H R Puffinstuf? Banana Splits? Land of the Lost?

    🙂 This is fun.

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