On Writing For Children & Other People
"Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something
to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little
lives are not irrelevant, that what we chose or say or do matters,
matters cosmically." (Madeleine L'Engle quoted in On Writing For
Children & Other People).
Anyone with a serious grasp of children's and YA literature is
familiar with the work of Julius Lester. We're a lot less cognizant
of the back story of his work, the perceptions and choices that shaped
his books. For instance, a defining moment in his childhood was
seeing his father throw out a brochure from a company offering to (for
a price) research the Lester family tree.
"Daddy laughed dryly. 'I don't need to pay anybody to tell me
where we came from. Our family tree ends in a bill of sale. Lester
is the name of the family that owned us.'"
Not surprisingly, Lester's first published children's book was
his Newbury Honor book To Be A Slave, a rich combination of historical
information and archived narrative.
Anyone desiring instructions on how to create a publishable
manuscript will be sorely disappointed. Along with autobiographical
information, Lester presents a philosophical discourse. In his mind
the difference between a Stephen King and a mother telling drowsy
children a bed time story is one of degree, not absolutes. Both
endeavor to know and be known through this act of sharing. Optimally
either can get beyond the race, gender, politics and the divisions we
make so much of and touch on the common heart of humanity.
"So, this book has three dimensions. The first is the text
itself, the theme at the center of contrapuntal lines. The second is
the quotations that begin each section...My work does not exist in
isolation but is part of a continuum comprised of men and women for
whom it is a sacred task to offer to children books that care about
story and language.
"The third dimension is the images, primarily of children into
whose faces I have gazed, faces that have probed mine with far more
intensity than any adult would dare..."
On Writing For Children & Other People is a wonderful read for
writers (both those aiming for publication and those with more modest
personal goals), readers, and anyone who has pondered the nature of
the human soul.
On a personal note, I recommended this book to my writing class
classmates who so generously and trustingly share their work.
A great big shout out goes out to kindred spirits who believe that the
universe has meaning, our little lives are not irrelevant, and that
what we say and do matters.
Sent from my iPod