A while ago I posted a piece Writing for Children. Since then, I completed the assignment a publisher had given me to write a book for 3 – 6 year olds on the subject of racism and discrimination. It was challenging, but I am happy with the result – a story based on a little Ethiopian girl called Elanda..
Nursery rhymes and fairy stories today do not resonate with young children so much as day-to-day reality. Children know a lot more than we adults give them credit for. Leonard Bernstein once said that for him music was the cosmos in chaos. That is also true for writing a story. Aristotle wrote that what is plausible and
impossible is better than what is possible and implausible. That means the story must be true, not necessarily factual, but true. This is not always easy to understand. Facts are fine – we need facts. But story takes us to a world that is beyond facts, out to the other side. I learned very early that if I wanted to find out the truth, why people did terrible things to each other, or sometimes wonderful things, I was more likely to find the truth in a story than in an encyclopaedia. “Emily of the New Moon” by L.M. Montgomery was a childhood favorite, about a girl who wanted to be a writer (as I did) and whose father was dying of lung disease. Emily knew there was more to the world than provable fact, and so did I. I read fairy stories, myths of all the nations (Greek myths and legends, Australian Aboriginal myths about “The Dream Time” which I later incorporated into a book titled “Back of Beyond”) , some science fiction, and lots of fantasies. Jules Verne and H.G. Welles. And I read my parents’ books, especially those with lots of dialogue. What was not in my frame of reference went right over my head.. A favorite story was “The Secret Garden” and today my grand-daughters still read it, albeit in a different language.
So what is the standard? IS IT A GOOD BOOK? That is the only standard . Because if a children’s book is not good enough for all of us, it is not good enough for children.
And now it’s time for another one of my poems. Good advice for writers is: When life touches you, write a poem! I wrote this when I met my sister for a holiday in Paris (she came from Australia to meet me) and we visited the artist Monet’s home at Giverney. We hadn’t seen each other for a few years, so it was a very special time.
The purple sky
Was mirrored in the lily pond…
Buds pf lotus tightly furled
Guarding secret hearts of shell pink and cream
Against our intrusion.
A world of perfume and color
Whose flowers sent our senses reeling.
Hollyhocks and roses,
Nasturtium and yarrow,
` Delphiniums of indigo,
Begonias, clematis and Queen Anne’s Lace …
While we remembered
Other times and places long gone -
Hearing whispers from far-off days
We once shared …
A bond of memory binding us
Closer as sisters
Than to any friend or lover.
Now youth has left us
But still we smile
At childhood jokes and voices from the past
That only we can hear.
We walked together
Through Monet’s garden.
To scent the years ahead.