“Begin at the beginning and go on ’til you reach the end; then stop.”
- Lewis Carroll
There I was, bracing myself for a short story. Instead I was visited by a story that, while short, isn’t quite what I’d expected. Inspired by a little something I was told by one of my four favourite aunts (I have four aunts and they’re each my favourite), earlier this week I was taken over by a children’s story. What a thrill!
When I first started writing in earnest as an adult, it was at the request of my then-young children, to whom I’d been telling made-up stories for quite awhile. I wrote one children’s story, then another, and still more, and worked at them and read them to my son’s Grade Two class. I even had the class illustrate the stories, which was a wonderful way to spend time with thirty receptive seven-year-olds. One such story, which was a gift from the muses after a spider landed on my viola during a symphony concert, stayed with me for seven years as I tried it one way and another, until finally this happened.
I find children’s writing to be a challenge and a joy, just as writing for adults is. It takes as much care in word choices and narrowing of focus as anything else I’ve written, and the response from the readers/listeners is immediate and true. There can be no false notes in children’s writing, or the kids will nab you for it.
A children’s writer bears the responsibility and the privilege of turning young minds on to reading. I have Roald Dahl, Pierre Berton, Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne, Enid Blyton and a host of other writers who took children seriously enough as readers to write great books which I devoured as a child. One can only hope to carry the torch and contribute to a lifelong habit of reading.
Which is why it was such a pleasant surprise to be visited by a children’s story that was begging to be written.