(For most of this month, I have been celebrating readers, rather than writers. Enjoy this little diversion and then stop back on December 30 for an inspirational post from the amazing Nikki Grimes!)
From the get-go, my kids loved books (be still my heart!).
Though they grew up a little before the cyber explosion and the opportunity to be everybody’s “friend,” they still felt strong connections with special authors. Our son absolutely devoured anything by Lloyd Alexander (and who wouldn’t?). He was so powerfully touched by the Prydain Chronicles, especially Taran, Wanderer, that he wrote a letter to Mr. Alexander. Who replied, sending my then-10- or 11-year-old son into orbit. Sadly, that particular child was not a saver so we no longer have the letter, but the memory has never faded. A real author took time to respond to a kid reader. Pure joy.
Our daughter wasn’t a confident reader until she discovered Patricia Reilly Giff’s Polk Street School series. (as an aside — aspiring writers for kids could find no better textbooks to study than Ms. Giff’s books. Any of them.) Sweet Quinn adored Emily Arrow and Beast and the other buddies, as well as their adventures. And she wrote Ms. Giff all about it, clarifying that she was a Miss, not a Mr., as her name had confused people in the past. Ms. Giff took the clarification in stride and wrote this charming letter which, thankfully, Quinn did save.
I too am lucky enough to hear from my readers; some have even become treasured pen pals (I’m looking at you, A!) There is not a day dark enough that can’t be lifted by a picture, note or email from a kid. Of course, it’s an ego boost to hear from readers like Kaitie in Illinois who thinks I am a “great author.” Who doesn’t need and enjoy a pat on the back now and again?
But there’s another reason I treasure correspondence with kids: it is a reminder that I am only one half of this reading/writing enterprise. The real magic begins when a reader picks up a book. When their heart and mind and soul connect with the black and white letters arranged on the page — that’s when the good stuff happens.
Sometimes, as now, when I’m struggling to get a book wrassled into shape, it’s hard to remember that I have a partner in this endeavor. It might be my friend A or it might be someone I don’t even know. But readers remind me that I have friends on this journey. And in the words of one exceedingly wise spider, “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”