Wednesday, December 30, 2009

10 Favorite Quotations about Writing With Which to Start the New Year

  1. "The quality of emotion is what stays with the reader long after the storyline is gone." - Ellen Howard

  2. "The world that is in me is the only world I have by which to grasp the world outside and as I write fiction, it is the chart by which I must steer." - Katherine Paterson

  3. "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." --E.L. Doctorow

  4. "The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business." --John Steinbeck

  5. "Novelists are people who have discovered that they can dampen their neuroses by writing make-believe. We will keep on doing that no matter what, while offering loftier explanations." --Kurt Vonnegut

  6. "Writers write to influence their readers...but always, at bottom, to be more themselves." -- Aldous Huxley

  7. "Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself." -- J.F. Stephen

  8. "The difference between the right and the not-so-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

  9. "Producing writing is not so much like filling a basin or pool once as it is like getting water to keep flowing through until it finally runs clear." --Peter Elbow

  10. "The power of fiction is to create empathy. It lifts you away from your chair and stuffs you gently down inside someone else’s own perspective. A newspaper could tell you that one hundred people, say, in an airplane, or in Israel, or in Iraq, have died today. And you can think to yourself, "How very sad," then turn the page and see how the Wildcats fared. But a novel could take just one of those hundred lives and show you exactly how it felt to be that person rising from bed in the morning, watching the desert light on the tile of her doorway and on the curve of her daughter’s cheek. You would taste that person’s breakfast, and love her family, and sort through her worries as your own, and know that a death in that household will be the end of the only life that someone will ever have. As important as yours. As important as mine."

From an essay titled "Jabberwocky" by Barbara Kingsolver in High Tide in Tucson.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Editors are NOT Dragons

When I first began to submit stories for publication, I was somewhat scared of editors. In my imagination, they seemed analogous to fire-breathing dragons, guarding the entrance to the Kingdom of Publication. Getting a story past them seemed an impossible task. Twenty years and almost thirty books later, I see editors a little differently. Yes, they do make judgments about stories that are often hard for writers to bear, but they honestly WANT to find manuscripts they can say "yes" to. And when they do find a story they like--and a story that fits within their company's publication program--they become a writer's best champion. They argue for the story's publication in acquisition meetings, and, once accepted, help writers to reshape and revise their stories to make them better. Editors help in other ways too--like writing the flap copy praising your book, and coordinating with the art department on covers and illustrations. But ultimately, despite all their assistance, and the assistance of many other behind-the-scenes people like copy editors, and others whose titles I don't even know, the credit for the resulting book will go to you.

Over the years I have been blessed with wonderful editors, not one of them even remotely dragon-like. Children's editors, like children's writers are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are kind, solicitous of a writer's feelings, intelligent, and hard-working, and they really want to see you and your book succeed.

Here is a list of the fabulous editors--all women, by the way--that I've had the good fortune to work with:

Matilda Welter (Mommy Doesn't Know My Name)
Andrea Cascardi (Edwin and Emily and Emily at School)
Diane Arico (Library Lil, My Dog Never Says Please, Old MacDonald in the City)
Lauri Hornik (The Witch Casts a Spell)
Julia Richardson (Secret Pal Surprises, Marvelous Mind of Matthew McGhee, Age 8 series)
Michelle Nagler (Third Grade Friends series)
Rachel Orr Chan, Rosemary Brosnan, and Margaret Miller (Fairy Blossoms series, Princess Power series, and Ten Naughty Little Monkeys)
Emily Lawrence (Goddess Girls)

These hitherto unsung heroes have my undying gratitude!

P.S. There was a nice article by Jon Bard in CBI Clubhouse about what writers need to know about the lives of children's book editors.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Holidays: An Early Writing Effort

Last Wednesday I had a lovely Virtual Visit with a group of fifth graders and their kindergarten reading buddies in West Babylon, NY. We connected through Skype-An-Author, the brainchild of Library Media Specialist Sarah Chauncey and Author Mona Kerby. As part of our Skype visit I shared the following poem with students. It was written when I was in the fifth grade. The rhymes are a bit forced, and some of the lines don't scan very well, but can you see my love for writing even then?:


On Christmas Eve while I was in bed
I suddenly heard a loud thud and I said,
"Now what could that be, the Christmas tree?"
Well I ran to the living room and guess what I saw
Stuck there in the chimney was old Santa Claus.
Well I ran to the chimney and tugged at him hard,
But it was not use for he was as heavy as a barrel of lard.
So I slipped into my coat, my hat and all
Then tiptoed through the living room and ran down the hall.
I ran to the neighbors and when I was in sight
They exclaimed in surprise,
"What are you doing up so late in the night?"
Well I hurriedly told them and they rushed home with me
And we tugged and we tugged but were sorry to see
That poor Santa Claus was still as tight as could be.
So I rushed upstairs and brought down a rope
I thought this will get him down at least I hope.
We tied the rope around his waist
And pulled and pulled and pulled,
At last I think he loosened a very little bit
And when we pulled a little more how loose he began to get.
At last we pulled him down from the sooty chimney
My what a sooty mess he was but he didn't seem to care,
He passed to everyone a great big candy cane,
Oh, how I wish that Santa Claus will soon get stuck again!