By Jean Matthew Hall at www.jeanmatthewhall.com
I am called to write books for children. I write board books, poems and articles for children’s magazines. I’m learning to write books for older children and enjoying each new step of my writing journey.
I especially enjoy writing picture books because they are more than books. Picture books are poetry and art seamlessly blended to give us a memorable story. Picture books create an experience shared between children and the adults who read to them.
The authors who most inspire me also write for children. There are several, but I’m focusing today on the award winning author Katherine Paterson, the author of The Bridge to Terabithia and many other children’s books.
She is also the author of several books to inspire and inform those who write for children. Most are out of print, so you’ll really have to search for them. My favorite is Gates of Excellence: on Reading and Writing Books for Children.
Paterson reminds me of why I write for children. She reminds me that this entire realm of creation was made by, and belongs to God. She reminds me that each person I write for is a special creation of God with His special purpose for their lives. She reminds me that my ability to write, and my gift of imagination are both gifts from God—gifts He wants me to use to glorify Him and minister to His little children.
If you need to be reminded of why you write for children, or read to children, or teach children look no further. Gates of Excellence will transport you back to that moment when, for the first time, you knew—you really KNEW—that you were meant to serve children. You were meant to share God’s truth, or God’s love, or God’s acceptance or forgiveness through the stories you mine from your imagination, or the information and lessons you draw from the complex beauty of God’s created world.
Here’s one wee bit of inspiration (for all writers) from pages 113-114:
…it occurs to me that I have spent a good part of my life trying to construct bridges. Usually my bridges have turned out looking much more like the bridge of Terabithia, a few planks over a nearly dry gully, than like that elegant span across the Narrows. There were so many chasms I saw that needed bridging—chasms of time and culture and disparate human nature—that I began sawing and hammering at the rough wood planks for my children and for any other children who might read what I had written.
But of course I could not make a bridge for them any more than I could conjure one up that night on Long Island. I discovered gradually and not without a little pain that you don’t put together a bridge for a child. You become one—you lay yourself across the chasm.
May I add my own humble opinion here?
As Christians who write we do not have to dot our manuscripts with churchy words, or Bible verses or references to Jesus for them to reveal the TRUTH to our readers. What we need to reveal to our readers are the eternal truths that we know about God, about the universe He created, about His love and forgiveness, about his power and beauty as it is reflected in His revelations of Himself in nature, in God’s Word, in Jesus’ earthly life, in our lives as His Holy Spirit lives and breathes through us.
We don’t have to tack on a good little Bible lesson to our stories to point readers to the Author of all Truth. We just have to be faithful to let that TRUTH reveal Himself through our words.
Paterson also says, “A writer has no life to give but her own.” Give to whom? It’s noble to give our lives to or for someone else. But it is most noble to give our lives to Christ Jesus. Then, whether we write or illustrate, sing or dance, teach or manage, build or demolish, the products of our lives will reveal that Eternal TRUTH of God and His Word to our readers.
Jean Matthew Hall blogs Encouraging Words for parents, for writers and for picture book lovers on her blog at www.jeanmatthewhall.com. You can reach her on FaceBook at Jean Matthew Hall, on twitter at Jean_Hall and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing Prompt: Jalen chased the runaway ball. It seemed to have a mind of its own, bouncing over uneven ground, and down ravines. When would it stop? Where would it take him?