Margin Notes

Craft Studio: Puddin’ by Julie Murphy


What I Was Reading:

Puddin’ is the much-anticipated and equally joyous companion to Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’. Puddin’ focuses on Millie Michalchuk and Callie Reyes, two characters we met in Dumplin’. Millie and Callie seem to have little to nothing in common, yet they are brought together unexpectedly when Millie identifies Callie on security footage taken the night her uncle’s gym is vandalized. Callie, who mistakenly blames the members of her dance team for turning her in, begins working with Millie at the gym to repay her debt. I loved this book as much as I loved Dumplin’, which tells you a lot!

The book opens with an introduction to Millie:

“I’m a list maker. Write it down. (Using my gel pens and a predetermined color scheme, of course.) Make it happen. Scratch it off. There is no greater satisfaction than a notebook full of beautifully executed lists.

A long time ago I decided to make a list of all the things I could control and what it came down to was this: my attitude. Which is probably why I’ve been able to psych myself into thinking that a 4:45 wake up call is humane. Listen, I’m a morning person, but 4:45 doesn’t even count as morning if you ask me, and I’m an optimist.

After swiping away the last alarm on my phone, I roll out of bed and pull on my fuzzy baby-pink robe with a scrolled M embroidered on the collar. For a moment, I stretch my whole body and yawn one last time before sitting down at my desk and pulling out my floral notebook. Across the hardcover front in gold letters it reads MAKE PLANS, and below that, in cursive, MILLIE MICHALCHUK.”

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

* This chapter, in fact, the entire book, opens with Millie’s declaration about herself, “I’m a list maker.” This is followed by three 3-word sentences that read like a checklist for being a list maker: Write it down. Make it happen. Scratch it off.

* We are meeting Millie in her natural habitat. Murphy uses Millie’s thoughts, surroundings, and personal objects to show us who she is. Millie starts her day at 4:45 by writing colour-coded lists with gel pens in a floral notebook while wearing a monogrammed fuzzy pink bathrobe. We don’t need to be told that Millie is organized, detail-oriented, and cheerful. We see it in action.

* This is a classic and fun example of showing not telling. Murphy literally begins the book as Millie opens her eyes to start the day and lets us peek in on Millie’s morning routine. Through this scene, I can infer a lot of things about Millie’s personality. Now that I have finished the book, and fallen in love with Millie, I can appreciate what a perfect introduction this was.

* By inserting a sentence in parentheses into the opening paragraph, between items on Millie’s checklist, Murphy shares a critical detail—Millie is so serious about her list-making that she requires specific supplies and a colour scheme. The “of course” at the end makes me think Millie is a bit self-deprecating.

* The repetitive structure of Millie’s list about making lists makes it seem like such a simple process and it invites me to wonder if Millie’s desire to fill her notebook with “beautifully executed items” is about to become complicated.

* The focus on describing a few key possessions tells me a lot about Millie without saying a lot. I can picture her gel pens, personalized floral notebook, and monogrammed pink robe.

Possibilities for Writers:

* Introduce yourself by writing a brief scene in first person. What details do you need to share about your thoughts, words, actions, and objects to show your reader who you are?

* Create a fictional character and introduce them by revealing the first few minutes of their day.

* Millie’s notebook, gel pens, and robe give a glimpse into her personality. Write about an object or ritual that give an insight into who you are.

* Experiment with the structure Julie Murphy uses in the first paragraph: “I’m a __________.” Followed by a series of short sentences and a parenthetical sentence.

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