Category Archives: Writing

A Disappointed Reader

Runt

Recently I received this email from a young reader.  It was, in fact, the fourth or fifth email Robert had sent me, each making the same point.

Dear,Marion Dane Bauer

 

I think I made it clear…we all want a sequel to Runt.If this can happen we will all smile.We will all laugh.We will all be happy and I think that you want us to be happy.However if you don’t then…I don’t know because that’s what I’ve always tried to do.I think that doing this would be the right choice.However I know how hard it is to write books.Ive tried I have but it takes a long time if this is a problem I kind of get it even though you have to put the time and effort to do that.I think anyone who has read Runt wants a sequel.Its obvious and I think that you should write a sequel many people think you should write a sequel.We don’t want to be left off with the sentence “Come, my dear ones!” He sang.”Come.the feast waits.”

 

Sincerely

Robert

 

Dear Robert,

I have often received letters from readers who want a sequel to Runt, but none of those writers has been as persistent as you are.  I appreciate your enthusiasm.  I really do.  But here’s the bottom line.  As you acknowledge, writing a book is hard.  It takes a long time and lots of effort.  And long ago I decided not to dedicate that time and effort to writing a sequel to Runt.

As I’ve explained, I considered writing a sequel.  I knew it would be called Singer and that the story would follow Runt/Singer as he leaves his family and would end with his finding a mate and with the birth of their first pups.

I had sorted some of what would happen along the way.  He was going to make friends with a coyote.  (Usually, wolves and coyotes stay clear of one another, but when I went back to my research about wolves in preparation for writing, I found a report of a coyote/wolf friendship, and I was going to draw on that.)

But here’s the problem.  I did return to that wolf research in preparation for writing the sequel you’re asking for, and as I read I found myself falling out of love with the idea of continuing Runt’s story.  My respect for the natural way wolves live and communicate grew to be so strong that I no longer wanted to play with the idea of giving these intelligent, independent creatures human speech.  Because however closely my story might adhere to the natural habits of wolves, giving them speech changes them in fundamental ways.

So you may go on pleading if it pleases you to do so, but my answer is firm.  I love Runt, as you do.  I’m glad I wrote it and glad that you love it, too.  But I have changed since I wrote that story, and I can no longer gather the energy needed to return to it . . . no matter how often you ask.

I appreciate your enthusiasm.  I appreciate your willingness to put that enthusiasm into words.  But you’re not going to change my mind.  What you might do instead of waiting for a sequel that isn’t going to happen would be to look up some of my other books.  A Bear Named Trouble or Little Dog, Lost or Little Cat’s Luck for other animal stories.  On My Honor for a totally different kind of story.

I wish you well, and I hope you find many books out there by many different authors that you love as much as you love Runt.  I know you will.

Fondly,

MDB

 

I WILL BE AS PERSISTENT AS POSSIBLE EVEN IF A SEQUEL NEVER COMES.#SEQUELTORUNT.

 

ROBERT

And how I love hearing from all the Roberts who demand more!

Even when I have to turn them down.

 

Where does Inspiration Come From?

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

But it is the same story, over and over in many ways, you know. I’m always obsessed with the same things, and I think that most writers are. You get a couple of themes and if you’re lucky, you can keep on turning it and shining different light on it, but it’s always that forgiveness and redemption and friendship and hope. So where does the inspiration come from? I always have a notebook with me, I eavesdrop, I write down what people say. It’s very rare that one of those things will provoke a story, but I think that that kind of paying attention all the time, and keeping everything open, lets the stories come in. But where they come from is still a mystery to me.

Kate DiCamillo

WE WANT PEACE!

Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash

I did not vote for our current president, and I take exception to his ideas and his manner in too many ways to count.  But occasionally, out of his barrage of verbiage, the man says something that I find myself sitting up and listening to.  Something that gives me a scrap of exceedingly cautious hope. (The caution earned by the fact that little of what he says ever holds.)

Some of what I pay attention to is this:

President Trump admitted that his initial instinct was to pull our troops out of Afghanistan.  Soon after, however, he announced a troop increase.

He talked about staving off “a major and uncontrollable arms race” and hinted at high-level talks with President Xi of China and President Putin of Russian, though those talks have yet to happen.

He called our defense spending, $716 billion this year, “crazy.”  Then he proposed boosting it to $750 billion.

Now he talks about withdrawing our troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and as of this writing, he hasn’t yet backed down on that one.  But what an uproar pushing him to back down from both sides of the aisle!

Clearly, as we proved in Vietnam, there is no good way to extricate ourselves from these kinds of military excursions.  And it’s also clear that Trump has no plan for performing these withdrawals with a minimum of confusion and harm.

But let’s remember that Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned over Trump’s refusal to take his advice in this matter, had a nickname in the Marines.  It was “Mad Dog.”  Mad Dog once said about the U.S. war in Afghanistan, “It’s fun to shoot some people.  You know, it’s a hell of a hoot.”  This man, who is being referred to as “the only adult in the room,” also said, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

It’s just possible that the “adults in the room” have it wrong, entirely wrong.  It’s possible that the entire “war on terror” we have been sold since 9/11 isn’t a war on terror at all, but multiple wars with a very different purpose.

Peter Ford, former British Ambassador to Syria, said, “Trump’s critics . . . will have the vapors about ‘losing ground to Russia,’ ‘making Iran’s day,’ and ‘abdicating influence,’ but their criticism is ill-founded.  Contrary to their apparent belief, the U.S. does not have a God-given right to send its forces anywhere on the planet it deems fit.  Withdrawal will see the U.S. in one respect at least follow the international rules-based system we are so fond of enjoining on others, and will therefore be a victory of sorts for upholders of international law.”

Do we know, do we want to know, that we have 170,000 troops stationed outside the U.S. in 150 countries?  That’s more than 800 overseas bases.  Then there are nearly 40,000 assigned to classified missions in undisclosed locations.  And all these men and women are “fighting for our freedom”!  Really?

Not my freedom I want to say, every time that phrase is trotted out.  Is it yours?

It’s hard to find hope in a man like Donald Trump, and I can’t pretend I do.  But few of our elected officials are as vulnerable to public approval as he is.  Just think what could happen if we stood up together, you and I and everyone we know who longs for a different world, and said, loudly and repeatedly, “President Trump, you are right!  Ignore the advisers taking you down a road we’ve been traveling far too long.  Listen to your own first instincts.  Listen to your country.  WE WANT PEACE!”

Because we do, don’t we?

Finding What I Need to Say

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

I’m happy to be working on something that feels personally important. I think that’s really the best there is in writing, yes? Finding what I need to say, and then the way to say it. It’s so much easier than I imagined all those years ago when I started writing. And it is so much harder. Surprisingly so. I’m feeling like I’ve found a new vantage point for being a career author after this second sale–and now I can see just how long this road is. The truth is exciting and daunting. Tiring and somehow thrilling. I’ll hold on.

Cori McCarthy

The Longest Night, the Sweetest Sound!

I couldn’t have imagined a sweeter or more fulfilling way to draw my extended 80th birthday celebration to a close.

I began celebrating in October by taking my daughter and daughter-in-law to Vermont to revisit my old teaching home at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

In November, my actual birth month, my daughter gave me a party, and various friends invited me to smaller celebrations.  My daughter hosted a family party, too.  (She was busy those days.)  My birthday gift was the surprise of finding my grandson Barrett home from Tampa, Florida, for the occasion.  Then on the actual date my partner, Barb, and I had a delightful just-us evening at a restaurant we hadn’t explored before.

Longest Night

But the climax came on December 9th.  Barb and I traveled to Providence, Rhode Island, for a musical performance of my picture book The Longest Night, created and performed by Community MusicWorks.  The program, Songs of Darkness and Light, included a folktale from Brazil, “How We Got the Night,” along with my winter solstice picture book.

Community MusicWorks is a community-based organization that uses music education and performance to build lasting and meaningful relationships between children, families and professional musicians.  Thirteen resident musicians perform concerts throughout Providence and surrounding communities and offer a free after-school music education program.  This is the third year they have performed The Longest Night.  It was my first time to be able to attend.

I was utterly charmed!  Storyteller Valerie Tutson read, no, she performed my text.  Ted Lewin’s stunning watercolors filled a screen.  And various musicians, some wearing half masks of the animals in the story—crow, moose, fox, chickadee—played Schoenberg and Bach and Haydn, carrying the story forward on wings of song.

Ted and I were asked to join the musicians on the stage at the end of the performance to talk about our work on the book, so I had a chance to explain my inspiration for this small story.

The Longest Night, I told them, began with a question: Why, I asked myself, does the longest night fall at the beginning of winter, not in the middle?  Wouldn’t the middle make more sense?

The answer when I went searching for it turned out to be simple.  As the days grow shorter and colder, the ground freezes and snow falls and stays.  Once the ground is covered with snow, the sun’s rays reflect and bounce back into space, leaving behind little warmth for our air.  And so the longest night becomes the beginning of winter because the climb out is harder and slower than the drop in.

I was delighted to know that, because it tells me more than why winter stays.  It tells me also that with every day growing longer, the beginning of winter is also our first step toward spring!

What a heartening thought, especially for us winter-locked Minnesotans.

And what a life-enhancing experience to hear a piece of mine that I particularly love come to life through another artistic medium

I’ll confess that when I rose at the end of the program to step up onto that stage, Valerie, the storyteller, had to reach down to give this old lady a helping hand.  I’m 80 now and 80 showed.  But oh . . . I am 80 and so blessed!