I couldn’t be more pleased that for the next two years, Katherine Paterson will represent us as the second National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, news that was just announced this morning. I feel a personal connection to her because The Great Gilly Hopkins was one of the first books I tackled when I decided I wanted to write for children. Every book I’ve read of hers has taught me something about writing. She’s a very classy lady, too. In an interview (on her website), she was asked how she’d like to be remembered. Her answer? She wants her children to recall how much she loved them and that she read to them.
As crazy as I am about her books, her thoughts about writing and reading and children have also impacted me profoundly. Of course, everyone knows her axiom about revision: “I love revision. Where else can spilled milk be turned into ice cream?” The words of hers that have meant the most to me, however, come from Gates of Excellence. I copied them out long ago and look at them frequently; they’ve been a huge comfort and touchstone to me in my career: “For as I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time and space are those who have given me something to say.”
A fond farewell and genuine “thank you” to Jon Scieszka for starting the Ambassadorship off on the right foot. His zany energy and generous spirit made him just the right person to have launched this role. I love the balance that is created by this new appointment and how it will help kids see that all kinds of people are writers. Mostly I love that another really decent human being will be working hard to raise public awareness of the importance of children’s literature.