Why I Write for Children


On July 23rd, 2018, I attended the International Literacy Association Children's Day event in Austin, Texas, where I accepted the honor for Children's and Young Adults' Book Award for The Notations of Cooper Cameron. The brilliant and funny Paul Mosier won the award for his book, Train I Ride, and rightly so. It's poetic, compassionate and true.

We were given two minutes for remarks. This is what I read to the group:

A wise woman once said to me, "There are only three things you need in life: something to do; someone to love and something to look forward to."

I like this adage. It makes survival sound simple. But simple can be misleading.

As a very young child, I stopped looking forward to things--sparing myself of all disappointment. Never admitting to my dreams. And, of course, thinking I couldn't pursue them. When I got an "N" in enthusiasm in 4th grade, my parents and teachers deemed me unmotivated.

Over time, I retrained myself to enjoy the littlest of things, the smallest successes.

When I was 18, my mother asked me what I wanted out of life and I said, "To be happy."

She said, "That's not enough."

I think it's everything.

In my older age and wisdom, the adage weighs on me. I realize, very deeply, that the most precious of these three things, something to look forward to, is the most precarious. We can choose to love and we can love many people. We can choose to do things, change our minds and do something else. But everything rides on hope. And it's hard to look forward when the world feels hopeless.

I have been lucky. Somehow I found a way to keep my glass half full. That's why I am standing here after 30 years of trying to write--before work and after dinner, through failed family businesses and lost jobs, kids' learning disabilities and depression, new puppies, spelling tests and teenagers with driver's licenses. By the end of the year, I will have six grandchildren.

My half-full glass means I have hope to share. And that's how and why I write for children. The Notations of Cooper Cameron, which is based on my older sister's challenge with OCD, is a perfect example. I had a fantasy of giving my sister a happy childhood. Of letting her know she mattered and was loved no matter what. That things would get better. After she read the book, she wrote me this, "How amazing to have healing drop out of the sky."

What a gift for me to learn that hope can work backwards too.

Thank you. I am grateful for this honor.

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