Oh, dear readers. I completed my questionnaire for Chautauqua, and I wanted to share two of the questions with you. As obvious as they may seem, it was a very interesting assignment to actually flesh out some of this stuff. I challenge you, during your next writing time, to answer these questions for yourself. I also included my answers because I know the importance of modeling.
What inspired you to write for children?
I taught eighth grade in Durham, NC for several years. During my tenure there, the school system merged two school systems and changed the face of the school. At my arrival, the school had been full of Duke University professor’s kids and other high-achievers. The students were diverse in ethnic, religious, and racial background but quite homogeneous in the culture of academia. The school held a long history of academic excellence, winning records in national academic competitions and recognition for innovative programs. When the system merged, suddenly 50% of the school came from government housing projects, and they were largely African American. Many of their parents hadn’t even graduated from high school. The majority of the new students knew no one who had attended college except teachers. Parents on both sides reacted in horror, and the summer prior to the transition was the hottest on record, in temperature and temperament. Members of the community urged teachers to quit in protest and some did. Schools experienced vandalism. Principals received threats on their lives. On the first teacher workday, all our tires were slashed. Because of the threats, our principal forbade us to work late unless we had someone there with us. I was in my mid-twenties and more than a little rattled by the whole thing, but I knew the transition was an important and necessary one. The first day of school, I handed out Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee, a brilliant piece of fiction that subtly brings racial issues out into the light. Students of all backgrounds adored Maniac. His story freed them to talk about their concerns and observations, and bonded our team of young people. Maniac took us all to a higher level of human kindness. I always knew I wanted to write, and I’ve always had a heart for adolescents. When I experienced the life-changing power of that book, I longed to create something so special.
Who is your favorite character in children’s literature? Why?
My very favorite character in children’s literature is Betsy in Maud Hart Lovelace’s series of Betsy-Tacy-Tib books. Oh, how I love those books. I read and reread them as a child, then again in college, and not so long ago while recovering from surgery. I’ve read about half of them aloud to my four children. I was even a member of the Betsy-Tacy-Tib Club formed by Maud Hart Lovelace. I loved their small town life full of freedom and independence. Betsy, Tacy and Tib shared wonderful friendships and created many fascinating adventures for themselves in their Minnesota town. I grew up with Betsy, re-reading the books that applied to whatever time of my life I was in. I remember Betsy and the Great World when Betsy sold her first story to a magazine, and I dreamed of doing it, too. Interestingly, I married a man from Minnesota who grew up in a community near Maud Hart Lovelace, we live in a small town where children can explore with the freedom of Betsy, Tacy and Tib, and now I “write furiously” every night like Betsy. I only wish Ms. Lovelace had allowed Betsy a few more stories.
Please share your responses with me under comments. Answer one or the other or both, but please share! Contribute to our learning community.
Here's my poem of the day. A Senyru.
I ran out of checks.
But taxes are due today.
I really messed up.
I am proud to be
Creative and living free
Til the world steps in.
Why is it I must
Conform to rules and boring
Stuff like my taxes.
Where's the candidate
Who will fix the whole tax code?
Accountants got him.
Okay, now a Haiku.
Like a whispered lullaby
Hear the morning wind.
Okay, well, I'm off. Have a wonderful day. Remember it's poetry month. So far, you've managed to escape my neurotic rhyming, but I feel it coming on, so watch out!
P.S. I just found out I won 4th place in the poetry contest on Jody's blog. The subject was internet. The other entries were great, so you should check it out. Her blog link is on the left side in the list of links.
My Mission Statement
I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.