I have had the privilege of sharing my new book during speaking engagements at schools, bookstores and conferences, and of receiving great reviews since its release in late spring. To my deight and validation, the reviews from Newsday, SLJ, Kirkus, etc. focused on the sense of wonder I feel about the world we live in.
This weekend I spoke at the SCBWI Regional Conference at Mills College. I was asked to give an inspirational keynote at the end of the day, It was a good time to talk about THERE WAS AN OLD MAN WHO PAINTED THE SKY as well as some of my own folklore. Just as the discovery of the paintings on the cave ceilings in Altamira created a sense of wonder in Maria and her father (see Jan.'s Blog), the last few years have been years of discovering new things about the world and about myself and how I relate to that world.
As I have said earlier, there might have been a non-fiction story to be told about the cave discoveries, but it did not have a great ending for Don Marcelino Sanz de Sautula whose daughter discovered the painting. His discoveries conflicted with academia at the time, and the world of academia would not let his writings have any credibility. The story is that after his ideas were denounced he spent the rest of his years in depression.
To me, that is unfortunate, because in my mind, based on what I know of his time period and setting, I believe he was an unusual man. For one thing he respected his daughter's discovery and did not try to claim it as his own. He was brave enough to share what he believed and knew with the academic world. He was following his passion and he took a risk. Can you imagine the number of times we have discounted important discoveries and ideas because we are not comfortable exploring their possibilities, when instead we could have allowed that sense of wonder to open up a whole new world of thought for us.
My job as a writer is to start our writing everything that I wante to say, and then eliminate anything that gets in the way of sharing that original sense of discovery and wonder with the reader because to paraphrase one of my favorite quotes: Our world will never lack for wonders, only a sense of wonder.
This weekend at Mills was a learning weekend for me as well. Even though we seem to still be experiencing an economic downturn, this conference for writers and illustrators was sold out. It reminded me again that in difficult times we turn to stories and we all need to share the stories we know. We need to hang on to the discoveries we make about ourselves and the world we are in and for those of us who enjoy the arts, we need to put these discoveries into a form we can share. We need to embrace time as a friend and not an enemy. For me, there is often a long span of time between the inspiration or the discovery that starts my imagination moving into something that I can create and share. Then there is often a long period of time before I know how to funnel those thoughts and feelings into their proper package.
And sometimes the final package, or book, in this case, can hold more than one story....a story that served more than long enough time in my drawer labeled " writing limbo". Years ago, I had written a two page piece of my own folklore about how the animals got their spots and stripes from people who had painted themselves and danced so fast around the fire that their paint flew off onto the animals watching. That two page story now takes up one paragraph and fits within THE OLD MAN. So hold on to your discoveries and your inspiration and let them take you on a ride. Share them with others when you are ready, but most of all give them credence. We have much to share.