Friday, March 9, 2012

atom splitting idiots

If you are a parent, you have and do read a LOT of books to your kid. It's inevitable. You want them to learn to read, so you read to them.  Easy as pie.  Yet, if you are one of these reading inclined people, you know the struggle parents face when your dear sweet shining child brings you yet again that lame, boring, vapid book (that you thought you had hid particularly well in the closet behind your underwear) he wanted you to read twelve times already today.  It's painful.  It's more than painful, it is a special torture devised by top secret terrorist agents working to take down America from inside the ring of literary mothers. Okay, well, maybe it's not that, but it sure feels like it.

I love books.  I always have.  Which is perhaps the reason I am working my fingers off to write one.  I do not believe in censorship, but as I work, and as I read more and more books to my son, I have come to feel that sad, bad children's books really ought to be banned. 

I was going to write a book review today, but I'm feel particularly itchy.  Instead I wanted to write a brief note to the adults who think writing for children is easy, or think that children don't appreciate "literature," or think that they can write it better themselves... you know who you are.  
Don't write bad books!

This of course begs the question, what is "bad? " Clearly, if the child wants to hear it for the twelfth time today then it can't be so bad right?   And naturally, we each have our own ideas of what is in the realm of want-to-throw-the-book-out-the-window-to-get-rid-of-it kind of bad.  So, instead of telling you what I think is bad, because I think you all can figure that out for yourselves, I thought I'd just give a suggestion or two to remind you writer friends of a few small things I have learned in my short life as a reader, parent, and writer.

1- Kids are not idiots. 
Yes, they drop things, break things, forget things, lose things, and ruin just about every item in your house, but this does not make them idiots.  They simply don't really care about your stuff.  Also, they  are uncoordinated and haven't figured out their bodies yet.  Which also means they haven't figured out their brains yet.  So don't talk down to them like they don't understand anything!  Kids can intuit far more than we give them credit for, and they know when they are being treated like babies.  Just talk to them like they are normal people, which, eventually, if you keep talking to them that way, they will grow up to be.

2- Parents are not idiots.
Yes, we made the wildly miscalculated choice to allow into our family home little stuff ruining beings, but this does not make us idiots.  We simply are biologically programmed to be hopeful about these progeny and wanting to provide them with the best of all worlds.  This best world however, does not include spending 15$-20$ on a thin flat picture book with 32 pages and a word count that would not hold the attention of a flea. Give a parent a book to read to their kid that is written with the poetry of your feeling heart and you will win far more than a few bucks in your pocket this taxable season.

3-You are not an idiot.
Yes, sometimes you might think that you are, and we readers who loathe your stories might have to agree. But the truth is that maybe your heart isn't really in it, or maybe you were a physicist and thought that writing books for kids had to be easier than splitting atoms, or maybe you just figured you could make a quick buck off me and my little learning-to-read child.  Whatever your reason for writing bad books, I hope you reconsider your life's work. Maybe writing isn't for you?  Or maybe it is.  In which case if you feel passionately that this is your calling, then by all means, work your own fingers off to discover, study, and pefect your craft, take your rejections with humility, and keep at it. 


Like I said, I love books, and I am plying my brain with information on how to generate a great one of my own devising. I am hardly an expert, but I do know creative, inspired, and poetic writing when I read it.  The creation of thoughtful books certainly is not the same as the work of physicists. No, good writing is an elusive thing, and may be something a whole lot more valuable than splitting atoms. Good writing connects mothers to sons, fathers to daughters, it brings each of us closer to each other and the vast world.  Not least of all, good writing opens up a window of truth into our very selves that somehow, thankfully doesn't make us want to through the book right out it. 

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