He Said, She Said . . . , by Anthony D. Fredericks

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

He Said, She Said . . .

A fourth grader in the rear of the auditorium raised her hand and asked, “What inspires you to write for children?” I thought for a moment and responded by saying that kids are my inspiration. Their energy, their enthusiasm, and their unfettered curiosity about the world drive me to my desk every morning, keep my fingers dancing across the keyboard, and generate a million creative possibilities.

Later, as I contemplated my response, I concluded that, like other children’s authors, I also stand on the shoulders of many writers before me. In my writing workshops, I always admonish prospective authors to unfailingly read a plethora of children’s books before and during their own literary journeys. Knowing how other writers have drafted compelling themes, paced a plot on a faraway world, or invented sinister characters is critical to the development of one’s own philosophy and style. In short, our writing comes from experiencing the writing of others—not to emulate them, but rather to understand the power of vocabulary and the wonder of story.

So, too, have those writers penned inspirational homilies that give us counsel in writing our own books. While not all are children’s authors, they share profound thoughts that can solidify our mission, drive our enthusiasm, and propel our literature. Here are a few of my favorites. Write them down, post them over your computer, and embrace their wisdom. Consider them as new views on a familiar journey.

  • “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” —E. L. Doctorow
  • “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” —Benjamin Franklin
  • “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” —Ray Bradbury
  • “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” —Gustave Flaubert
  • “Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.” —Meg Rosoff
  • “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” —Octavia E. Butler
  • “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” —E. L. Doctorow
  • “You fail only if you stop writing.” —Ray Bradbury
  • “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” —William Strunk, Jr.
  • “You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.” —Carl Friedrich Gauss
  • “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” —E. B. White
  • “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.” —Truman Capote
  • “Life throws surprises, sorrows, sadness, and hardship, and I think that writing has actually grounded me. It kept me grounded when everything else was falling apart.” —Sandra Brown
  • “Writing is an extreme privilege but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.” —Amy Tan
  • “I’m writing my story so that others might see fragments of themselves.” —Lena Waithe
  • “I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” —James A. Michener
  • “Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once.” —Cyril Connolly
  • “I’m writing all the books I wish I had when I was a kid.” —Jason Reynolds
  • “The point always is to be writing something—it leads to more writing.” —Susanna Moore
  • “When I’m writing, I am concentrating almost wholly on concrete detail: the color a room is painted, the way a drop of water rolls off a wet leaf after a rain.” —Donna Tartt
  • “I like myself better when I’m writing regularly.” —Willie Nelson
  • “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” —E. L. Doctorow
  • “I think you become a writer when you stop writing for yourself or your teachers and start thinking about readers.” —Avi
  • “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” —Stephen King

OK, readers, what’s your favorite writing quote? Please share it with your fellow authors in the “Comments” section below. Spread the word; spread the wealth!

Editor’s note: Since Tony asked . . . I couldn’t help but include some more inspiring writing quotes. —Laura Parnum, EasternPennPoints Editor

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison

“I do believe writing is thinking. Sometimes we can’t untangle what’s happening in our brains, but we get our pen moving and all of a sudden, as we write, we figure it out.” —Elizabeth Acevedo

“Even the silence has a story to tell you. Just listen. Listen.” —Jacqueline Woodson

Tony is the author of more than 50 award-winning children’s books including Tall Tall Tree (Dawn), Desert Night, Desert Day (Rio Nuevo), and The Tsunami Quilt (Sleeping Bear). His latest book, “All Aboard!” Starts with A, will be released in April. For more information, check out www.anthonydfredericks.com.

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1 Response to He Said, She Said . . . , by Anthony D. Fredericks

  1. Wendy says:

    From yesterday’s NYSCBWI. A good writer doesn’t go into a story with a message. A good writer does, however, go into a story with a point of view. – Matt de la Pena.

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