Fun with Richard and Jane

Those of you who’ve been around for awhile are familiar with Jane and Richard from my writing lesson examples. I believe at the moment, Richard is buried somewhere in Jane’s boss’s backyard while she enjoys her promotion. Anyway, Anemone and Liz are writing a romance novel in Rest in Pink, which has led to many meta moments like this one:

Anemone picked up the folder she’d brought to the breakfast table. It was pink, so I already had an idea of what was in it. “She’s a thirty-three-year-old writer—”

“No,” I said.

“—of romance novels. Why not?”

“Writers writing about writers is not good. It’s like grad students writing short stories about grad students. Very meta and self-serving.”

“Write what you know, Liz.”

“Also writers lead very boring lives, sitting around in t-shirts and pajama pants, drinking Diet Coke and googling for minutiae. You can’t get a story out of that.”

But then Bob, who has no respect for my creative process, pointed out that Richard and Jane were actually Dick and Jane. So I had Liz tell Anemone that, and then they googled for Dick and Jane so they could steal the plots–yes, by then I was way past the book we were writing–and, well, here’s Liz and Anemone talking about the book they’re going to write about Jane and Richard. I’m pretty sure none of this except for the first one will appear in Rest in Pink, but you never know. Also every story cited below is real, including the one with Dora.


I sat down across from Anemone on one of the blue couches—you know, I’ve always liked that color, but after a month trapped in Faye’s Rhapsody in Blue, I would kill for a nice taupe—and tried very hard not to yawn in her face. Staying up most of Sunday night with Vince is one my favorite things—right up there with food and music—but it did make Mondays hell.

“Would you like a nap?” Anemone said politely, so I must have yawned in her face after all.

“So here’s the thing,” I said. “You know how we named our lovers Jane and Richard? Vince just pointed out to me that’s Dick and Jane. You know, from the kids’ books.”

“Yes, I know,” Anemone said. “So we change them?”

“I think we go with it. I did some minor googling. They have a younger sister named Sally, a cat named Puff, a teddy bear named Ted, and—this one is my favorite—a clown named Jack.”

“Not following,” Anemone said.

“Puff is the evil grandmother with one of those puffs of silver hair. Sally is the little girl. Tim is Dick’s best friend, teddy bear of a guy, and Jack the Clown is the evil whatsis that we had planned and that I have forgotten in detail.”

“Evil politician. And Spot?”

“Jane’s best friend.”

“I don’t think a hero named Dick—“

“No, no, he’s still called Richard. But at one point, Jane will turn to him and say, ‘Richard, you are such a dick . . .’”

Anemone started to laugh and stifled it. “We need to take this seriously.”

“I am,” I said. “I think we look at the plots of the Dick and Jane books and see what we can use. Updated to adulthood, of course. Some pieces of some of the stories are online, and the first one is a little repetitive, just “look” and “oh,” but she does almost step in a puddle and then Dick saves her with his wagon.”

“Jane?” Anemone said, reluctantly interested.

“Sally. But we can make it be Jane. Who almost falls in a lake, but Richard saves her. With his classic station wagon.”

“That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” Anemone said.

“Yeah, the station wagon is a bridge too far. Who the hell would still be driving a staton wagon?”

Anemone shook her head, and I thought she was giving up on me, but then she said, “Send me the URL.”


“Did you read the one where Jane got three dolls for her birthday?” Anemone said. “Jane can have triplets.”

“Jane is not going to have three secret babies. No. I read the one where Sally wanted to go for a ride in the big yellow car, the red and yellow airplane, and the blue boat that Father was in. I think Father is the head of the secret agency that Jack the Clown works for. And the next thing Sally will want to go for a ride in will be his windowless van. That kid has escape fantasies. And a death wish.”


“I read a disturbing page this morning,” Anemone said. “It was Dick—“ she shook her head—“Richard holding a stick and saying, ‘Come, Spot, Come.’ Very Fifty Shades. Didn’t you say Spot was Jane’s best friend?”

“Jane has terrible taste in best friends and boyfriends. Maybe she ends up with Jack the Clown. Maybe Richard really is a Dick.”


I found one with Dick and Dora,” Anemone said.

“Who the hell is Dora?”

“They were hopping,” Anemone said, “And then Dora said, ‘I can hop on my line. It is fun to get on a line and hop.’”

“Richard is now a coke fiend?” I said.

“I don’t know about Richard, but Dora is definitely a crack whore.”


“My favorite page so far?” Anemone said. “Dick likes Jane. Jane likes Dick.”

“Jane’s no fool,” I said.

35 thoughts on “Fun with Richard and Jane

  1. I think I’m beginning to understand the inner workings of your brain. It’s so (Richard) Scarry. I don’t know why I just wrote that when I learned to read with Dick and Jane. Sometimes I wonder if Bob looks at himself as George Burns to your Gracie Allen.

  2. I laughed at each suggestion. Thanks for starting my day off right! Also, did anyone here have the Jerry and Alice books as well as the Dick, Jane & Sally ones. We only got to read a couple of them but I liked them better. My vague recollection is that I liked the illustrations better and there was a mention of going to a village which stirred my imagination as I didn’t really know a village was, but it certainly sounded more interesting than any place D, J, & S would visit.

    1. I went to many schools (army brat) and always preferred Alice and Jerry stories and illustrations.

    1. You need to listen to “Colors” by the late, great Ken Nordine. Even though I don’t remember a taupe cut from that record, it will teach you a lot about other shades.

  3. I don’t like the term “taupe.” I’ve only heard it used as a stuck-up word preferred by pretentious people. How about “beige?”

    Alice and Jerry was the series I had to read in 1st and 2nd grades. Most boring books I’ve ever had to read. After Winnie the Pooh, American children’s reading books were a terrible disappointment.

    1. Taupe is more of a light pinkish grey-brown. Beige is a light yellow brown. I like taupe. I am indifferent to beige. Taupe goes with burgundies and navy. Beige looks okay with navy but not good with burgundy.

      Some of how you see them depends on your eye structure. You may not actually see any difference between beige and taupe if your doesn’t read some shades of red. My husband and I can argue endless whether a color is chartreuse or some other shade of green and we both see green just fine. Although he did admit that after cataract surgery, the colors he saw from that eye were different.

  4. “What do you have there, Dick?”
    “It’s a chart of all the colors printed on a yellow-green paper, separated by any detectable hue. See? Here’s beige and taupe.”
    “It’s fake – a ruse of some kind.”
    “Jane, what makes you think it’s fake?”
    “You can tell by the paper. It’s a chart ruse.”

  5. Three out of four Harvests – two of them connected to reservoirs – flashed the angry red “Low Water, Stupid!” alarms at me. I swear, I was enjoying the *gurgle-bloops/ that meant the ones with tanks were sucking in water. Harvey, Harvey Too, and Seble are all angry with me right now. I have wielded the blue water can prodigiously to assuage their wrath.

    I watered everything in sight. Just in case.

  6. I remember Dick and Jane and I think I might have an original copy of one of the books in a chest somewhere. My grandmother was a school teacher that started her career in one of those one room schoolhouses. I need to try and find it

  7. The only good thing Dick and Jane ever did was to get Dr. Seuss together with Random House to start the I Can Read picture books.
    No, there is another answer to those awful books that helps take their bad taste out of my mouth. Lane Smith (another incredible author/illustrator) wrote The Happy Hocky Family and The Happy Hocky Family Moves to the Country as a modern day response.

  8. Are there any older Dick & Jane posts? Can somebody please link them?

    I loved this post. Looking forward to Liz & Anemone, dynamic writer duo 🙂

      1. Thank you. Does she actually kill and bury him?
        She turns into an assassin after this?

        What sort of story would you write for Jane?

        Does Richard return from the dead?

        1. It was a plotting exercise, showing how turning points worked.
          She kills him, but he deserves it. I think he’s trying to kill her.
          It’s somewhere on this blog. I’ll keep looking for it, but really, it’s just five sentences as examples.

  9. My Catholic grade school readers featured David, Ann and Timmy. I googled and was startled to find the series is titled “Faith and Freedom.” Not what it means today! Also, turns out the 1940s and 1950s versions had way cooler illustrations than the bland ones I remember.

    Using “real” books, as our kids’ schools did, seems much more appealing–although DD says she never again wants to hear “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

  10. “Writers writing about writers is not good. It’s like grad students writing short stories about grad students. Very meta and self-serving.”

    I had a dream that Jenny and Bob were writing a book about two writers who did not know each other, a man and a woman, writing a book together after they were trapped in a cabin by bad weather after their agent messed up the dates of their cabin reservations. Romance did not ensue. The writers in the book were writing a book about 2 writers writing a book together.

    It was just turtles, all the way down.

    1. I love that.
      Pretty much describes what we’re doing, except the cabin in the internet.

  11. I think it was fourth grade we had a real book called Wagon Wheels. It’s the only school book that I remember.

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