Thursday, March 12, 2015
Only Connect: Overview Basics
Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults
“An idea is something that makes a sound in the heart.” Katherine Paterson
Once in a while have you ever seen a movie, or read a book, that both friends and critics have given high applause to, and yet it has left you bored or cold or both? The quality is evident, no argument, yet still you just don’t respond. A strong possibility is that the storyline or the underlying threads did not engage your heart. It did not connect. Talent is a required component to any art form, but it is not enough if it doesn’t engage with the intended audience. And for the example above, you may not have been the intended audience.
Only connection is as high a value as talent in literature for children and young adults. Actually it is probably higher. It is why some children will cling to a poorly written story, or ask to hear a song over and over that grates on our nerves. It may be a concept that doesn’t match any ‘rules’ of a genre, but readers inhale it like dessert. The classic storybook “Goodnight Moon” does not fall into ‘normal’ guidelines for writing to that age group, yet it affects all generations with its heart relationship to that whisper of falling asleep for a child without vocabulary to express their feelings.
Often when we are writing we are translating. We have an idea—a character—a feeling—a fear—a hope that we are trying to put into words, to first translate into something more tangible, and then second to share it with another person.
“One thing we can do is to share with children works of the imagination—those sounds deepest in the human heart, often couched in symbol and metaphor. These don’t give children packaged answers. They invite children to go within themselves to listen to the sounds of their own hearts.” Katherine Paterson
Old Testament prophet Habbakuk first saw a vision, and then was told to write it ‘plainly’ so that a runner could take it. That’s the craft part of developing our ideas into form: poem, short story, or article that we can make ‘plain’, make our concepts understandable.
Only when we are writing for children and young adults it seems, sometimes, that we are crossing a culture gap as well as generational and we struggle to find the words. We need to find the connections that bridge our hearts, and at the same time keeps the imagination free to expand into new ideas—not packaged ones. New sounds—new stories—new art. Fresh hope.
1. Write a definition of dream either as a word or as a concept.
2. Suppose you were trying to explain this word to someone who doesn’t speak your language. How would you do it?
3. Then read, The Dream Keeper, a poem by Langston Hughes. http://allpoetry.com/The-Dream-Keeper
4. What sound does it make in your heart?
Share: How does his poem connect with your feelings and definition?
Read deep, marcy