“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious….”It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.”
Albert Einstein, The World as I See It, 1931 essay
Let me catch my breath! I just read a wonderful, amazing book by Rebecca Stead called When You Reach Me. It won the 2010 Newbery Medal and has garnered fans among both teens and adults for its writing, intricately layered plot, and the questions it asks about time and relationships. The book is a cunningly constructed puzzle that you can unravel only by patiently studying the way it is put together and the clues it provides. And yet, in its last pages, all the loose ends are tied together in a way that is emotionally satisfying.
Rebecca’s is an inspiring story for us all: She left a career as a lawyer to stay at home while her two children were young and began working on her debut novel, First Light, even though she found it a struggle to believe in her abilities as a writer. It took her several years to finish and was eventually published by Random House. When You Reach Me is her second book. I had the good fortune to hear Rebecca talk about her books and her writing process. Here are some of her comments:
“Tell the world you’re writing:” At first, Rebecca didn’t talk about what she was doing, because she felt she hadn’t really earned the right to write. But as she kept going, she began to share her work selectively, which helped her.
“Don’t try to protect yourself from disappointment:” Writing is difficult and so often we feel that we fall short of the vision we have about what we want to say. But if we try to prevent ourselves from feeling this way, we’ll just give up. So accept disappointment as part of the process and keep writing despite your concerns about whether you are hitting your mark.
“It’s very important to nurture the odd slant that you haven’t seen before:” Sometimes you can feel a lack of faith in your work because it seems so different from what other people are writing. But it’s this “odd slant” that makes your story unique, so cherish and nurture it instead of worrying about it or diminishing it.
Wonderful advice from a wonderful author who definitely writes dangerously. Write on!