Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


What keeps me (Edie Hemingway) writing is...

  1. my insatiable curiosity.  I'm always searching for ideas, eavesdropping on conversations and writing them down before I forget.  My kids (grown now) called it "asking too many questions."
  2. playing the "what if" game.  Once I have ideas, I follow where they lead.
  3. my characters, who won't leave me alone once I get to know them.
  4. the 5th grade student who asked during my author visit, "Do you have a body guard?"
  5. my faithful students.  How can I continue to teach creative writing if I'm not creating my own?
  6. my 9-year-old grandson, a budding writer himself, who keeps asking when he can read my next book.
  7. a deadline.  Solid as a rock.
  8. my discerning editor, who knows how I can make my story better and who cares enough about my work that she's willing to go to bat for it at an acquisitions meeting.
  9. my writer friend, who shares the literary heart and holds me accountable by saying, "Let's send each other a page a day."
  10. my husband, who gently prods and sometimes, not so gently, gives me ultimatums, such as the time he said, "I won't go on the trip to Alaska with you unless you finish your novel first."  You can see above that we did not miss that trip to Alaska! 


Why Do I Write?

There must be some reason why I spend hundreds of hours on rough drafts and book dummies, many of which never get published. I suppose there are plenty of reasons.

Here are ten of them.

1. Good Books. When I read a top notch children's book like The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt or Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, I'm inspired to try my hardest to join their ranks on the bookshelves.

2. Bad Books. When I pick up a trite or didactic book in the New Books section of my local bookstore, I get furious that such sloppy stories are being published for kids, and my ego screams, "I can do better than that!" So I try.

3. It's who I am. I call myself an author, and to retain that identity, I need to write.

4. Guilt. Creating good books for young people is my heart's desire, and when I don't write, I feel like I'm disappointing myself by not pursuing that dream.

5. Past Successes. The positive comments and awards my books have received are great for my self-esteem. I like being recognized for my work, and it's a wonderful thing to be told that I'm good at something.

6. Critique Groups. They hold me accountable. They also provide me with good role models of people who are diligent and serious with their writing.

7. Freedom. Writing gives me a wonderfully flexible schedule. I don't have to commute to my job (which is especially nice during Minnesota blizzards), and when I hear the horror stories of my friends who work for large corporations, I thank my lucky stars that I am self-employed.

8. Variety. One day I might be visiting an elementary school to talk to kids about using similes, the next day I might be learning how to use a new computer software program to illustrate a book, and the day after that I might be going on a hot air balloon ride as research for a novel. How many other jobs encompass such a wide range of activities?

9. Hope. I'm optimistic enough to believe that each story I start might find its way through the obstacle course of rejection letters and overworked editors and eventually become a book that people I have never met will someday read.

But even if I never had another book accepted for publication, or if I never received another award for one of my books, I suspect that I would still keep writing. Why?

10. Because I love to create. I love to pretend. I love to use my imagination. Making books and writing stories (just like carving pumpkins and entering contests) is a way for me to be creative. When I've come up with a surprising or fresh or funny idea for a book, when I'm truly being creative, it fills me with joy. And that's a pretty good feeling.


Look Both Ways by Christy Hale

This past weekend I was one of eight illustrators invited to speak at the MAZZA Museum (International Art from Picture Books) Fall Weekend Workshop. I was impressed by each speaker and came away with many nuggets. Marla Frazee spoke of an early project she had struggled to write and illustrate. She enjoys a close relationship with her editor. Marla said, “An editor’s job is to believe in you.” What a privilege it is for creators to have someone to fill this role. What a necessity!

My first critique group began when I was only eleven. My best friend and I walked home from school together and spent many afternoons writing stories. Then we read these works-in-progress aloud and became a part of each other’s creative worlds. Friends, family, classmates, critique groups, editors have all been a helpful, offering both encouragement and insights. Outside connections provide structure and even deadlines, which spurs the writing along.

I have always liked this quote by Madeleine L’Engle (A Circle of Quiet)

“I think that all artists, regardless of degree of talent, are a painful,
paradoxical combination of certainty and uncertainty, of arrogance
and humility, constantly in need of reassurance, and yet with a
stubborn streak of faith in their validity, no matter what.”

A response from the outside is certainly desirable, yet motivation from the inside is essential. The writing process appeals to me for these reasons:

I enjoy word play, the sounds of alliteration, assonance, rhyme and meter whether the work is poetry or prose.

I like ideas. Writing is a way of finding form for thoughts that cross my mind.

Writing helps me make sense of life. While I’m writing I see connections and patterns that never occurred to me before.


What keeps me writing...

Writing is terribly subjective. Some people love the same story that other people may abhor.

I'm a little jealous of people in more objective pursuits. Like, say, plumbing. If plumbers get critiqued, it's more like "Dude, it flushes! Well done."

So, as a participant in a subjective career world, it helps to develop a thick skin. And I have, to some point.

So what keeps me going with this pursuit of writing stories that I know will potentially elicit some comments that threaten to pierce my thick skin?

1. The sea of little faces at schools when I read them my stories. The eager hands waving in the air, wanting to know more about my characters and me.

2. My agent Scott, with his comment "You rock!" when, once in a while, I exceed expectation.

3. One of my editors, with her notes on my marked-up manuscript, jots a quick "This is great!" Even among all the stuff I know I need to fix, that one little jolt of sunshine can keep me going for 50 pages.

4. Bloggers. All it takes is one of them to say "I read this book in one sitting..." and I'm on Cloud 9 for a week.

5. Readers. And parents of readers. Like the one who said "My daughter refuses to go to sleep unless we read her your picture book first."

6. Fellow writers, like the ones on this blog. We're all in the same canoe, and there is always someone to help me paddle when I get blisters.

7. My kids. My oldest texted me from the school bus one morning: "Mom! Half the kids are reading your book!' Amazing feeling, to know your children are proud of what you do.

8. My husband. He always tells me to keep writing, even when I don't want to.

9. My critique partners. They tell the truth, but kindly take out the sharp edges. And my stories get better for it.

10. My cat Ficus, who sits by me when I write. Good words or bad. And she always fixes me with an objective look. It might not be "Dude, it flushes! Well done." But it's close enough.

By Stephanie


What Author?

When I was a student at Manz Elementary School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, we never had an author visit our classroom and talk about writing. We never had an illustrator come in and talk about the process of drawing or painting or creating a book. This didn't happen for me at Central Junior High School or Memorial High School either.

As a result, I grew up thinking that books came from some place far away. I didn't see anybody in the town I lived in making books. And, partly as a result, I never imagined being an author when I grew up. 

One of the reasons I like going into schools and talking with students so much now is because I never had this experience. I want to demystify the process of writing and making a book and show them that it can be just some guy writing about driving at night or playing basketball. I am amazed how much many students  know so much about the writing process and book making. This comes from teachers and librarians and parents making it a priority to bring in authors and illustrators to schools. It's wonderful for the students and it's wonderful for us.

And yes, sometimes I think about what would have happened had an author come to my elementary school. I would have been fascinated. I would have imagined what it would be like to be an author and see your name on the front of a book. And I'm pretty sure I would have found my way to writing books sooner than I did.