I'm the younger sister. And the photograph, taken in 1942, is black and white. Amazingly, though, I remember the color of everything: our matching jackets (navy blue), my skirt (royal blue), Helen's dress (blue and red plaid), and our shoes, dark brown and freshly polished.
We're starting school. First day. My sister and me: we are eight and five; second grade and kindergarten.
Welcome to this new monthly post that reveals approaches to professional writing and research in the words of extraordinary authors and illustrators of books for children and teens.
I recently attended BookExpo America (BEA) in New York City. I feel very fortunate that I get to attend conferences like BEA, for a couple of reasons. First, because I think of myself as a reader, even more than a writer. I love to read, and the authors whose books I love are among my heroes. The big book conferences mean I have the chance to hear other authors speak, and sometimes I even have the thrill of meeting a writer whose work I really admire.
One of the wonderful things about stories is their ability to allow us to explore and make believe. Whether as a reader or a writer, stories give us the chance to try on different hats. To see things from a new or different perspective. Or to share a bit of our own perspective with others.
One of the burdens carried by children's literature is the expectation that it is supposed to be didactic, that it is supposed to teach a lesson. "What lesson do you want children to take away from your book?" is a question I get all the time about my children's books. Yet, I have never been asked that question about any of my books for adults.
When I was a child I resented the stories I read about the ugly mean older sisters. Why did the youngest have to be the kind beautiful one? And why did the eldest always seem to possess the worst flaws? I remember thinking, if I were a writer, I'd never bow down to that storytelling tradition. I'd write a story about the gorgeous gentle-spirited oldest daughter with the two dreadful younger sisters. If you haven't already figured it out, I'm a first born.