Saturday, August 3, 2013

Kirby Larson: Where's Papa Going with that Ax? Whispers of the Past in Contemporary Middle Grade Novels

Lin welcomes our first keynote speaker of the morning as one of our local heroes. Kirby is a loyal member who also wrote the Newbery Honor book HATTIE BIG SKY. She now has a sequel HATTIE EVER AFTER, and many other beloved books for kids.

Last year Kirby was honored with the Crystal Kite by the West Division of the SCBWI for the FRIENDSHIP DOLL. This story was inspired by an old photo of a young girl from Montana with an Asian doll. Kirby explored how such a doll would come to be loved by this little girl. In 1927, beautiful artisan dolls were created and sent from Japan as Ambassadors of Friendship. There was genius there: "bypassing the screw-up adults to try and build peace one kid at a time."

As a child, Kirby adored her grandma, although her grandma wasn't a hugger and didn't even like reading. Kirby wondered what it was that created their bond. Then Kirby learned that as a child, when her mom was ill and only able to feed her, her grandma did the rest, keeping her safe.

Someone kept us safe during our newborn writer stage. They've kept us safe, and warm, and dry: our book grandmother.

"I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all." ~E.B. White

As writers we all need a community to support us, and possibly a grandmother for our books.

When Kirby's daughter was home with strep throat, Kirby read and reread books by Patricia Reilly Giff to her. Then Kirby studied those same books as a writer. "Patricia lit candle for me, so I could find a way in the dark. Someone has done that for you."

There are whispers of past works in the contemporary. You've possibly had someone dismiss your manuscript, told it is something that has been done, but Kirby shares the many echoes that have come from the greats of the past that now appear in new and wonderful novels for kids.

The writers before us leave breadcrumbs for others (like us) to follow.

"Leap and the net will appear." ~John Burroughs

Each time we write, we step on a thin cable over a wide crevasse with no net to catch us. Plus there are those many rules that people throw our way to try and knock us off the line. It's amazing we even pick up the pen or paintbrush. If you lose balance, just grab the wire and hold on. Someone will be there to rescue you.

Listen to Mister Rogers, you are not alone. All those writers that have come before, they have your back. Someday, someone will see the work you've done, and that's all they will need to be led into their own story.

No comments:

Post a Comment