A group of writers and I are reading a wonderful book called Fearless Writing by William Kenower. I won’t say it has been life changing, but I will say it has made me look at my writing and other parts of my life in a new light. So maybe it is a little life changing. When I was much younger, I wrote because I loved it. I still love it, but now in the back of my mind I wonder if other people will like what I write. Kenower reminds us that we can’t force anyone to like our writing. One of my favorite quotes in the book is “That’s not my job. My only job is to love my story.” Allen Ginsberg once said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” Hmm…but aren’t we writing for other people? Perhaps not. At least not to begin with.
Recently, I had a story that I was excited about. I planned to do it as a non-fiction picture book. It fell through for a number of reasons, but it’s ok. These things happen. So then, I decided to take that same story and write it as historical fiction. I knew it would still be a picture book. I am comfortable with picture books, and I have wonderful picture book critique groups. But it wasn’t happening. I wondered who would read it. I worried about the word count. And mostly I was bothered because I wasn’t telling the story as deeply as I wanted to. I didn’t love my story because I had more to say.
As much as I love reading and writing picture books, the more I worked on this story, the more apparent it became to me that a picture book is not the best vehicle for telling the particular story. At least not the way I want to tell it. I realized that my story needs to be a middle grade novel. Once I decided to try to write it that way, it seemed so obvious. I teach middle grade books, I love them, and I read them all the time. Of course, writing them is something different. Nobody said it will be easy.
But I am taking a leap. I have to admit that I’m nervous and perhaps a little scared. I haven’t written a middle grade novel in a very long time. I have never had one published. But working on this story is exciting. It will take many months to complete, but I am enjoying the work. I love the research. I love having some latitude to add a bit of fiction. And I love the challenge of doing something new. Will this story ever get published? Who knows? But for right now, writing it makes me happy. I feel connected to it. And finally, I love my story. Thank you, William Kenower for the push.