Tag Archives: ON WRITING

Where Hope Springs

Yesterday, I posted here for the first time in over a year. I was lucky to get to announce my friend Alison Goldberg’s cover reveal for her upcoming picture book I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES.

This morning, I’m scrolling back through all the supportive comments, the happy tweets and retweets, the Facebook joy and many shares of this important moment in Alison’s life and career. And once again, I see our community for what it is—a spring. spring-of-waterA spring of unparalleled beauty, sparkling, life-giving, earth-quenching. A rushing source of courage and creativity and optimism, of belief in the value and potential of our young ones, of conviction that story matters and can make a vital difference.

I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES, like my BABYMOON and so many others, is a “love” book. It’s meant to invite moments of simple enjoyment between children and those who care for them, to help them snuggle, share a giggle, or dream of adventures. Books like this knit relationships together in warmth and safety.

But they do something more too. They nourish children with the good food of rich language, of deep caring, of a world that makes sense. Just because junk food exists—or deadly poison, for that matter—doesn’t mean it should be given to children. Junk—like cheap, thoughtless language. Or poison—like hatred, evil, violence.

There is no way to permanently protect children from these things, of course, and some never have a moment of peace between their first breath and the terrors of the world. But some do. I have to believe that if these young people are filled with good food, they will grow strong and happy. They will not be satisfied with junk or tempted by poison. They will have drunk from the spring of love, and that is permanent. It changes them. It makes them who they are meant to be, and we all need that. The whole world needs it.

So write the love books. Publish the love books. Fill our homes and libraries, shelters, schools, and park benches with them. And if you have the chance, pull a young one close and read one to them. Nourish them with laughter and hope. Encourage them to believe that a better world can exist. Because it can, and with their help and ours, it will.

Enjoy the day,

Hayley


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I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I also blog for the agency at https://emusdebuts.wordpress.com.

 

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500 Words or Less

I enjoyed my first reading of Stephen King’s ON WRITING. As a matter of personal taste, I’m not a fan of his fiction, mostly because I was the anti-self-censoring kid. I clearly remember many, many books (like CARRIE) that should have been yanked out of my sweet little mitts. He’s an excellent writer, but make my King non-fiction.

I expected him to be funny. He is. He’s also emotionally honest, appreciative of his family, and warmly encouraging. If I ever meet him–I saw him at a Maine rest stop once–I’ll be glad. I generally pay no attention to celebrities, and I wouldn’t recognize Justin Bieber if he ran up and slapped me, but when I saw Stephen King step out of his car and walk toward Dunkin’ Donuts, I knew it. He’s a recognizable fellow. He must dread stopping on the Maine Turnpike.

King has a lot to teach writers. He expects us to shun the passive voice. He doesn’t truck with adverbs. For dialogue, “said” will do most of the time. He recommends a bracing dose of Larry McMurty to show us how much can be accomplished with “said.” I agree.

Except… I write for children and that leaves me in a tricky spot. Accepted word count for a picture book text is 500 words or less. Preferably much less. Good picture book writers wield that tight word limit like a plastic surgeon wields a scalpel. They carve out  stories that offer well-developed characters, clear story arcs, zingy tension, and satisfying resolutions. The very best examples, in my opinion, have something more. Delicious, nutritious language.

A favorite read-aloud in our house was Charlotte Pomerantz and James Marshall’s THE PIGGY IN THE PUDDLE. It was a treasure trove of fun words and my children delighted in Little Piggy’s rebellious adventures. They cheered as she would, “…waddle, plump and little, in the very merry middle.” Gently and naturally, the book expanded my kids’ vocabularies and fed their love of reading. The adorable illustrations and lilting language were an Astaire-and-Rogers team. We loved it.

Stephen King wasn’t talking about picture books. He was talking about–and to–grown-up writers who use corn-fed filler words that sap the strength of their prose. Still, as picture book word counts become more and more limited, we have to wonder what we stand to lose as the scalpel nears the bone.

Children need to read adverbs. They need to read adjectives. They need to read and learn lots of ways to say “said” without saying “said.” They need words like they need vegetables and plenty of them.

Most writers I know lament the scarcity of long, luxurious picture books. They still occasionally happen, and we all hope they’ll experience a renaissance. Candlewick’s gorgeous CLOUD TEA MONKEYS, written by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham and illustrated by Juan Wijngaard, is a recent example. Books like this, however, are as rare as snow leopards.

So, with the help of ON WRITING, I’ll sharpen my scalpel and have at it with my 500 words. But I hope I see more snow leopards.

Enjoy the day.