January Kidlit Notes (and musings from a chilly librarian)

Love words.
Agonize over sentences.
And pay attention to the world.
Susan Sontag

Dear Kidlit Writers,
Despite lengthening days, we are in a dark time of year here in Wyoming. Every morning, my husband gets up and walks our dog around the neighborhood, hoping not to startle one of the moose bedded down in yards all around ours. We rush to get a little ski or walk in after work before the day tips into night and temperatures plunge. Light comes from unexpected sources these days. Maybe you saw the full moon this month? It was a spectacularly clear night, and its light bleached the stars from the sky.

Post holidays, we settle back into routines, and some attempt resolutions. I’ve always been more of a fall resolutions person; the winter seems too still a time to change anything. It’s a better time for incubation and hibernation. It’s a fantastic time of year to read. This week I finished a spectacularly tense book called Wolf Hollow (Lauren Wolk, 2016) about a girl named Annabel living in rural Pennsylvania in 1942, whose quiet town is disrupted by the arrival of a vexingly cruel new girl. It a book to study- how does the author create and maintain this intensity, hike the stakes so high I had to block the next page so I wouldn’t skip ahead to see what was about to happen? And also, her writing; tuned precisely to the moment, masterful.

Another of my favorite books this winter is The Sun Is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon, 2016), a sweeping single day in New York City that follows the journey of Natasha, an analytical Jamaican teen on the eve of her family’s deportation, and her chance (fated?) meeting with a Daniel, a poet and dreamer who struggles to meet the expectations of his Korean-American family. Again, the tension. Again, the stakes. And this time with a love story.

Yes, you’re thinking. But what of KidLit this month? Well…Sheryl and I had a great time and easily filled the hours by ourselves…but we’d love to have everyone rejoin us on February 9th! Remember, we’ve switched to Thursdays, 6-8 p.m. Resolve to write, and to give yourself the gift of community this year. We really are a thoughtful and supportive group, and sometimes, I bring chocolate.

Sheryl and I are in similar places in our manuscripts, a little unsure of the endings, ready to scrap large portions and grudgingly begin again. These words from author Kate DiCamillo showed up on Facebook at just the right time for me this week:

It’s okay for the story to be a big mess.
Maybe it is even necessary for it to be a big mess.
Keep going:
Don’t give up.
The story will find its way.

And from one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle (Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art):
“…Naming is one is the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.”

So go out into the darkness and see things in new ways. Embrace the mess and untangle the message. Listen carefully for the cosmos in the chaos, and write it all down.

Until next time,
Melissa & Nanci

by Lauren Wolk

by Nicola Yoon