One of the best blogs I follow is the blog of Janet Reid, Literary Agent. This morning on her blog, she posted a picture of people standing on the side of a mountain surveying all the lost homes and damage from the fires in Colorado. Then, she included a link to Toni McGee's blog. He writes about the need for writers in times of trouble. Rarely, do I link to other blogposts, but this post was so powerful, I knew you would want to see it. Now go read it. NOW. (Then come back)
Toni McGee's amazing blog post about the need for writers in time of trouble
This post made me think about the struggles we experience in life and how books can be so many things to us, as adults. But of course, my thoughts then immediately jumped to children and their need for books. Good books. Books full of hope and courageous protagonists who bring themselves out of crazy, messed up, sometimes adult-created problems. So I'm going to pay tribute to Toni McGee and all those children this morning. It will pale in comparison, but it needs to be done.
There's a young boy playing with Legos in his room. Or at least he's pretending to. Outside his door, a war rages between his parents. Horrible screaming and shouting and name-calling and words he shouldn't have to hear for years. Then, like it always does, it escalates to loud bumps and thumps, crying, screaming, as the sound of his father beating his mother echoes through their small apartment. He quietly locks his door. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. It depends. The screaming is mostly in his head now. His mother is likely unconscious and his father is probably prowling around with more life in his fists. When the front door slams, the boy sighs with relief, even though he knows it is only temporary. He puts away his Legos, pulls out a book and begins to read. He loses himself in the story, the magic, this place where good reigns over evil, where hope thrives, and the protagonist never stops until he has righted the wrongs of the world. That's a place he likes to imagine, to read about, so that one day he'll know how to create a world for himself that's different from this one. Write for that boy.
There's a teen-age girl, crying in her room. Her boyfriend pressured her all the time, until she finally gave in. Not to sex, what he really wanted, but she threw him a bone, something to buy her time until she knew what to do. She sent him a picture of herself, scantily clad, from her phone. Except he forwarded it to half the world. Now creepy boys she's never even met are calling, texting, commenting on her facebook page. Girls are calling her horrible names. It was a mistake, a huge mistake, she knew it then and knows it now. But she had no idea just how big. And now she wants to die. Her parents are out for the night. Her mother has a cabinet full of sleeping pills, and she knows where the key to her dad's gun cabinet is. How to do it. Then, she remembers a book. A book where the protagonist was in a worse situation than her, way worse, and she didn't lie down and die. She fought back. She turned things around. She made a new and better life for herself because she decided to. The girl searched her book case through the tears, pulling and scattering books until she finds the one she wants. Tomorrow, she thinks. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow. But first, I want to revisit my old friend, the protagonist, and see someone who's situation is worse than mine. Let me leave my sorry world in another way, by visiting hers. And maybe, just maybe, I'll see a glimmer of hope. Write for that teen-age girl.
Sometimes I get frustrated with rejections and the state of the market and other things that don't make a damn bit of difference in the big picture. What does make a difference is good writing. Triumphant writing. Books that take a child out of the pain of his or her daily life and into another world for escape, encouragement and hope. MANY, MANY, MANY people who escaped troubled and difficult childhoods will tell you---the books saved them. Lots of people can even tell you WHICH BOOK it was.
This book thing is important and valuable and significant and NECESSARY. Never doubt it for a minute. So whether you're a writer or a reader or both, get excellent books in the hands of children. It may be their saving grace.
Thank you, every editor and agent who has ever rejected my work. You are the gatekeepers, and I am grateful for you. I would NEVER want to waste a precious moment, a valuable opportunity, with a sub-par book. The children need the best.
So I will keep writing, keep striving, keep working on my craft until I have something worthy. It's too important to do anything else.
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.