Happy day after Thanksgiving and Poetry Friday! You'll find a poem at the end of this post and the link to this week's roundup. Below that, you'll also see a link to our current giveaway
While others may be enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers or Black Friday shopping, I'm pleased to wrap up our Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving with a tribute to one of my favorite authors, Katherine Paterson.
I didn't discover Katherine Paterson's work until I became interested in writing for young readers. She's probably best known for her 1978-Newbery winning Bridge to Terabithia, a novel I first read in August, 1995. I found the book moving, but it was Paterson's 1981 Newbery winner, Jacob Have I Loved, which I read the following month, that really touched me as both a reader and an aspiring writer. I wrote this of Jacob in my book reading log: "When I finished it, I immediately thought, 'I’d love to write a book that moved other people the way Jacob moved me.'"
But of all of Paterson's novels, The Great Gilly Hopkins has influenced me most as a writer. I first heard of it in 1996, at the Highlights Writers’ Workshop in Chautauqua, New York, when editor and author Patricia Lee Gauch discussed Gilly in a lecture on characterization. I read The Great Gilly Hopkins shortly after returning from the conference and was amazed at how Paterson was able to make me love a character who really wasn't that likeable. As I wrote in my reading log: "You empathize with Gilly, in spite of, or maybe because of, her brashness. You know she’s hurting and you want her to find happiness." The novel became one of my all-time favorites.
Years later, when I went to Vermont College to work on an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Gilly became my "mentor text." My first adviser in the program, Marion Dane Bauer, suggested I take a paperback copy of a book I admired and highlight "backstory" in one color and "sensory details" in another. When I tried this exercise on The Great Gilly Hopkins I was amazed to discover that Paterson incorporated backstory throughout the novel, even in the last chapters. Before that, I'd assumed you had to include every bit of pertinent character history in the first few chapters.
|highlighted interior of my copy of The Great Gilly Hopkins|
|My NEW autographed copy and bookmark!|
I had the pleasure of hearing Katherine Paterson give a visiting lecture while I was at Vermont College. She struck me as a humble, hardworking writer. In her lecture, she encouraged us to “write out of who you are, not who you think the reader might be.” I still strive to follow that advice in my writing.
In researching Paterson's work for this post, I discovered her beautiful book Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving, illustrated by Pamela Dalton. You can read a lovely review of it at Kid Lit Reviews. In honor of Poetry Friday, I'd like to share a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem from the book that is still appropriate on this day after Thanksgiving.
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883-1882)
from Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving, © 2013 by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton
And I'm grateful for Katherine Paterson and her wonderful contributions to literature for young people.
This week's Poetry Friday roundup is at Carol's Corner. Before you head over there, be sure to enter our current giveaway if you haven't already done so. You could win a 2-book set of great historical fiction by Sandy Brehl.
Don't forget to Write with Joy!