Finally, our first blog post! Going forward, only one person will write, but for the “launch,” we decided to all chime in. At a critique group meeting, someone posed the question: “Why do you write for children?” Hmm, that took some pondering, especially when containing our musings to 150 words. Here are our responses:
E. E. Duncan
The place where history and individuals meet is what I explore in my biographies and historical fiction writing. As an elementary school teacher, I write to help young people understand the real human connection they have with the past. The writing process combines my interests in history, human nature and storytelling. Whether my characters are real or fictional, the process of placing people in a specific time and place allows me to discover their emotions and actions. As I examine a historical topic, I create characters whose personalities emerge given their specific set of historical and individual challenges. For me, my books provide the opportunity to link history and personal choices, through the use of a compelling and interesting story.
Rondi Sokoloff Frieder
I love stories. As a child, I told them, drew them, and listened to them with rapt attention. Whether it was Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, Charlotte’s Web, or Johnny Tremain, I was literally pulled into the lives of the characters and their worlds. When I became a reader and writer, my experience expanded. I kept journals, wrote songs and poems, and even illustrated my first book in fifth grade. Then, when it came time for a career, I chose teaching and reveled in the joy of reading and writing with my students. After many years in the classroom, my principal pulled me aside and said, “When are you going to do something with your writing? It won’t be easy, but you should go for it.” So here I am, deep into the writing life, creating my own characters and worlds for others to discover.
Karen Deger McChesney
It’s my go-to.
In hundreds of spiral notebooks,
black ink cursive, blue Sharpie doodles.
Locked diary of secrets in my sock drawer,
lists of dreams.
Letter to my Dad after he died;
notes I tuck in my husband’s wallet,
journaled images of my stepson.
Receipts scribbled with observations.
Searching for one word to describe the sound of a dew drop slowly sliding from the tip of a leaf on to cement.
My prayers, my connection to a God-thing.
Revives me in a split second,
pumps me up,
returns me to the little girl picking green beans in Grandpa’s garden.
Permission to let loose, imagine whatever I want.
My best, worst, raw, pure self.
It’s my hand holding a pen,
my confidant, my empowerment.
Me mining deep riches.
At a point in my life when everywhere I looked my friends made time for special interests, I felt I had none. My girlfriends baked, sewed, or crafted. I tried it all. But after failed attempts at recipes, cross-stitch patterns, and DIY decorations, I threw in the towel.
Then, in a children’s literature course for my teaching certification, it happened. I read Newberry winners, fractured fairytales, a plethora of picture books, and finally found my passion, writing.
Learning to write was different than my other endeavors. When I finished my first draft, I didn’t toss it in the trash because it didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. I met with other writers for critiques, took courses, read books, and returned to revise and make it better. I’ve made peace with knowing I’ll never be a Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart, but I’m proud that I am a writer.
My dollhouse people didn’t cook and clean and put the baby to bed. Instead, they rode wild stallions, hunting down kidnappers who held baby hostage in a boat (stolen from my big brother) that was being tossed about in treacherous bathtub waves. I timed my playtime once: eight hours without a potty break. At ten years old, I was already being teased for playing dollhouse. By fourteen, I drew the shades and said all the dialogue in my head so no one would know. That same year, a magical thing happened. A brand-spanking new, 1984 Apple //e sat on my kitchen table. Suddenly it was okay to make up stories. Classmates now thought I was cool because I wrote novels. The thing they never realized was that I was still playing dollhouse. And I’ve never stopped.
In a high school English class, we were quizzed on our favorite book. At the time, I was too embarrassed to admit the truth – that I loved children’s books but couldn’t stand adult ones. And for the past four decades, I’ve had one dream – to write children’s books. Life works to get in the way, but the dream hangs on. I write because I have stories that only I can tell, and I write because I want to share those stories. But mostly I write because, like a basketball player with a hot hand who is shooting in a zone where he can’t miss, the experience of weaving words together has sometimes been so perfect, so magical, that it is impossible to give up.
Why do you write for children? We would love to hear from you!
-The Story Spinners