Okay: we’re going to pretend you and I are in my kitchen (I cleaned especially for your visit!) and I’m making raspberry scones. We’re going to have warm scones and tea and a good old chin-wag, but first, you’re on a stool by the fridge, and I’m wielding my pastry knife, trying not to get my new shirt (don’t you love it?) floury. We’re talking about—you guessed it—food and writing. And since the food is right in front of us, transforming into something delicious, it’s only natural to talk about the other half of that perfect pairing…
So, I’ve been a kidlit author for quite a few years now. I love it. I’ve explored writing lots of genres for kids—Young Adult, Middle Grade, picture books, illustrated story books, poetry. I want to do more of this, always more. But I didn’t start out this way. I was once a young writing student who wrote for adults. It’s kind of odd for me to think about that. I’ve been in kidlit world for so long and with such intensity that I’ve completely given up my for-adult writing. Until now.
One thing I haven’t tried writing for kids or teens: short stories. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve been pretty busy with the other genres jostling for space in my head. But I did write short stories for adults when I was starting out, and I loved them. It’s just been a (long) while.
So, the reason I bring all this up is because I recently took a look in one of my old writing files and found some stories from those bygone years. And man, was it fascinating. And a little strange. Because in several ways, that was a different person’s writing. In age, stage of life and geography, a different person, but also in attitude and aesthetic. I was single (or at any rate, not married), debt-free (today: hello, mortgage) and on a creative high made that much higher by school and classmates and assignments.
Looking at this old work is like a peek back in time. Isn’t that the great thing about the written word, after all? It’s a record, whether an account of a Roman battle or a journal entry from my grade five diary. These stories aren’t just stories. They are a record of my development as a writer. They tell me about myself at a particular moment in my life. One I sometimes forget about these days.
So in a way, delving into that old file of stories is like finding buried treasure. More than that, it’s a chance to get some of that old mojo back. Because I’ve kind of forgotten how I used to write. Perspectives change over time. Energy wanes or transforms. Styles develop. Things sometimes need to be remembered. And from this, maybe something new can happen. As a keener student, it felt a lot like Dr. Seuss said: “Oh the places you’ll go.” Now I’m at a place where I can ask, “Where have I been so far?” Answering that with evidence from my past writing is a great way of fertilizing my current work. It’s coming full-circle. It’s the past me helping the present me, just like my classmates did in workshops all those years ago.
And it makes me want to be that past me, at least a little bit (she was pretty fun). I’ve decided to open up the short story file again. To look around and see what I can do not for kids. There’s nothing like a big chunk of time to give a writer perspective on their work.
Okay, enough of my blathering. Tell me your news. And let’s eat these while they’re still warm.