I’ve been contemplating the power of words a LOT this week. They have the power to love and heal, as well as to hurt. I have lost a friend this week due to the latter. Words can definitely hurt and for that matter kill, as the friendship is now dead.
So imagine my surprise today to see this on Terri Windling’s blog: http://windling.typepad.com/blog/2014/08/the-power-of-words-part-ii.html
She too explores the power of words. Even more amusing to me is the poem in the comments from Jane Yolen. I suspect there is a poem in the works here of my own too. It is currently in the crock pot of my mind, cooking and bubbling and brewing.
But my contemplation on the power of words extends beyond that right now. I’ve also been reflecting on the power of words as a writer who aspires to write for children. It seems that this power to craft words and explain thoughts and feelings as easily as I do, as succintly as I have been told I can when I sit down to craft them into any form, is one that must be wielded ever so carefully.
As a teacher, I know better than anyone the responsibility of my role in childrens’ lives. I am one who crafts their early memories in the 1st grade. I am one who has the power to make it a good experience or a bad one. It is a heavy responsibility when I spend each and every day with them. There are good days and there are bad days for them and for me, as is to be expected in any environment where humans co-exist for long periods of time.
How much more is this responsibility when I am a writer? If words have the power to hurt or to heal, surely I want to choose the latter as I write for children. After all, it is I who am teaching them what kind of adults they should grow up to become. It is I who will give them characters to love (or hate) and stories to tell when they are grown. “Do you remember that book where….”
This is why I choose to write stories for children that come from the heart. Even if that heart might seem sappy and overly sentimental as an adult. There are books that I read to the kids that will get a laugh every single time (like “Skippyjon Jones” by Judy Schachner), especially when I use my silly voices and accents. And there are books that will hold the children in the grip of near tears at the fate of a lion who has broken the rules (like “Library Lion” by Michelle Knudsen). And there are series, no matter how old, that children will relate to time and time again because they touch on issues (friends that aren’t nice, new sisters, etc.) that they can relate to (like the Frances books by Russell Hoban).
Those are the books I want to write. Yes, I want them to be funny, but I also want them to grab their hearts and let the words shape them into something better than maybe they could imagine themselves to be. Maybe as grown adults they will look back on those words and they will remember, not the stories but the things their hearts learned along the way.