|Simon & Schuster, 2012; see more info.|
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
The thing that I find the weirdest in the process of writing children’s book is the juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous, the weighty issues and the tiny mundane quirks that all have to be lined up just right for the whole enterprise to work.
(For me. For writers whose deep and fabulous books just flow right out of them easily and without fanfare, moments of intense doubt, or quirks that drive copyeditors to drink, it’s a whole different story. A story some of use will never hear because we’ll have our fingers in our ears, and we’ll be going neee-neee-neeee-neeeee.)
My weighty issue: Mortality.
Specifically cancer, when my kids were very tiny, leading me to ask in a more urgent way than usual, what do I want in my life? What do I want my legacy to be? What’s important to me?
The answers being: I want to raise my children and spend a lot of time caring for my family (The “lot of time” thing was key here.), and I want to write books.
Specifically, books driven by what I care about and want to write, without my voice dulled out or dumbed down or my eye hugely on the market.
And even though this was probably completely selfish, my thought was that, given that my children needed to be loved and raised and that good books (It was my plan that these books would be good.) are inherently valuable and needed in the world, it wasn’t the kind of selfish that would detract from world’s overall well-being.
It was the socially useful and, in its small way (but for me, individually, huge way), a world-healing kind of selfish, and it has been my deeply appreciated good fortune to be able to work at those three things for eighteen years and counting post-cancer.
Bringing us to the ridiculous.
|More about Ann Redisch Stampler.|
How when my youngest left for college and picture books didn’t fill my suddenly gapingly open days sufficiently, I went on an emotional-emergency shopping trip to Staples and agonized about the right color for a plastic three-ring binder in which to put a not-yet-written novel. (Red.)
How I need color-coded pastel paper clips and Post-it Notes to organize my hundreds of pages of manuscript because, being way on the side of 40 when the brain begins to turn to Swiss cheese, without sky-blue and lemon-yellow paper clips, I am physically incapable of organizing more than 15 pages.
How I cut and paste, and a significant aspect of my writing life involves crawling around on the floor with scissors and Scotch tape, trying to prevent my writers-helper dog from eating any significant passages. (He eats paper.)
And I think that what happens on the pages of the books, especially with the YA novel, reflects the same juxtaposition of elements that happens in my writing life.
|A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan|
Because with all the lofty aspirations in the galaxy, the only way to get there is to slog through the concrete details of creation.
On the page and in life.
The characters’ lives and mine as well.