Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Write THAT book

by Suzanne Y. Cordatos

Boots crunch on six inches of new powder and carve a fluffy white trail up the Connecticut hills. Like a scene on a greeting card or a Norman Rockwell painting, we drag an empty red sled and carry a rugged knife capable of allowing a suburban family to saw a perfect 7-foot pine from the tree farm a short drive from our new house. My preschoolers run and hug one of the first trees they see and declare it perfect. Feeling like a lumberjack, my husband gets to work with the saw and the fresh pine smell rushes our senses with nature’s holiday goodness as our fingers get sticky with the resin we can’t help but touch.


“I have no memory of that – of a real tree in the house,” my now-teenage daughter announced the other day as she made up her own verses singing “Deck the halls and fluff the branches! Fa la la la la-a-a-, la la la la!” She referred to our family’s annual ritual of fluffing the plastic Christmas tree branches to look more real, spreading the packaged greens apart while I silently regretted not buying a pack of “pine scent sticks” to tuck into the tree branches. Then it hit me: How did I succumb to this fake tree? When did I allow this change to happen to my family? What do you mean you have no idea what a fresh pine tree smells like at Christmas?!?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas,
but what happened to the pine smell?
Writers, it is up to us. 

How might city kids learn about the woods or a farm if they have never visited one? When a girl loves to dance, can she imagine herself on stage? What does it feel like under the hot lights in front of an audience?There’s probably a book for that—and if there isn’t? Write THAT book!

Prolific American author Jane Yolen has a lot to say about what and how to write in her book, Take Joy. Her advice on what should go into your writing? "The wind in your hair, the slate of sky overhead; a child's quick intake of breath". In other words, the little discoveries that perhaps only you have bothered to notice. Cultural holiday traditions from far away or long ago can feel as alive as a simmering pot when you read about them in a storybook; the tinkering of tools in a workshop crafting homemade wooden toys; the warmth of Mom’s kitchen, her flour-coated hands expert on the rolling pin or helping pudgy little fingers press hard enough on the cookie cutters; tangible vibrations of voices lifting together in joyful song to the heavens.

When writers describe life’s moments (big or small, important or seemingly trivial) through words and characters and stories, we offer readers a window into an experience they might completely miss out on otherwise. Not just pretty holiday moments, either. Young people learn empathy by identifying with a character and experiencing tragedy or illness without having to go through the trauma themselves. Through books, we get inspired to discuss ethical dilemmas and explore different paths our lives might take. If we didn't learn about life through books, our world would be limited indeed. 

Please share one of your special holiday moments – it is important! Let’s not miss out!
Happy Holidays, everyone!


  1. So true, Suzanne. I believe if we write the stories of our heart, there are others that need what we write. Great reminder. Great post for the season.

  2. Beautifully put, Janet! Love the idea that someone out there needs the words on our heart that we feel compelled to write.

  3. Nicely put, Janet. This is great motivation for children's writers. We bring the world and beyond to children.

  4. Thank you for commenting, Karen. I agree, writing for children is the best "job" in the world. Have a very happy holiday season everybody!

  5. Great reminder, Suzy. Writing our story, our experience, our vision of this world, is what makes each author a gem and necessary. Thanks for the "pep talk". A special holiday moment of mine is how my mom would put an orange in the bottom of my stocking each year, along with nuts and chocolates. The thought of an orange in their stockings makes my teenage boys laugh, but it was a nice part of my Christmas.

  6. Thanks for sharing the orange, Kristi! Reminds me of Little House on the Prairie!