Sunday, February 10, 2008
Writing Monday: Anne Carroll Moore
The Writer had this book on her desk today, My Roads to Childhood by Anne Carroll Moore. Anne Carroll Moore was the first Superintendent of Children's Work at the New York Public Library, from 1906 to 1941. The Writer had the book open to the chapter called "Why Write for Children?" The chapter begins:
A promising young writer came to tell me one day that he could not face writing another children's book. He had published two. "It's not the children," he explained, "and it's not the form of writing. I've done nothing in which I've felt more satisfaction than in my children's stories. It's what happens to the books and to me personally."
The young writer laments the label "juvenile" books, feeling he is pigeon-holed into that type of writing. The Writer doesn't have his problem--she loves being a children's book writer. But I think she identified with that young writer on another level. Sometimes The Writer gets caught up in deadlines and revising and proofing and wanting good reviews and maybe an award before she goes to that Big Typewriter in the Sky and she feels a little lost.
When she goes to family reunions, an uncle always asks her, "Are you still writing books?" The Writer is tempted to say, "You know--I've published 100 books. I think I'll quit." She laughs about it, but she is annoyed when her relatives don't think of her writing as a real career. And sometimes, I think she thinks maybe she has written enough books and should stop.
When the young writer in My Roads to Childhood said he was quitting, Anne Carroll Moore said, "Oh, no, you're not . . . I think you have the biggest chance in the world if you keep straight on working and appraising everything you do on the basis of sound criticism. Writing for children, like the daily living with them, requires the constant sharpening of all one's faculties, the fresh discovery of new heights and depths in one's own emotions . . ."
At the end of the chapter, the young writer is convinced he is on the right path. He says, "To write of what you know . . . and know so well that it shines clear when the searchlight of a child's imagination is turned upon it--that's about what it all comes to, isn't it?"
The Writer felt better when she read those words, I could tell. She went back to her writing and I know she wasn't thinking about deadlines or revisions or proofing or reviews or awards. She wasn't even thinking about family reunions. She was sharpening her faculties, trying to create the switch for that searchlight.