Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For the Love of Libraries

I had to return some books today at the public library and stopped by to say hello to Betsy Bird, infamous children's librarian and blogger. Unfortunately Mrs. Bird was not in but I decided to wander around the children's section anyhow, it had been awhile. I try to get up to the library when I can and do just this: walk around. There is something so magical about not even reading all those books but simply being in their presence. The sheer magnitude of titles is exciting. Old friends and new ones. Recognizable covers and perfect strangers.

As I browsed the shelves and picked up a few favorite titles I was all of a sudden incredible humbled. Humbled to be in the presence of so much remarkable literature, certainly, but also humbled by the hundreds and thousand of writers who have decided to commit themselves to the craft of writing for children.

I was not always a children's writer. In fact all of my published work to date is in the adult sphere. But there was always something about children's that spoke to me, something that promised writing could be challenging, tough, problematic, frustrating, and also incredibly joyful. That is what I feel when I write for children: joy. And in my little corner of the library, all alone and quite as a mouse, I imagined that other writers feel that, too. That there is something about writing for developing minds and hearts that is just, well, downright fun.

Don't get me wrong, a picture book may look like a breeze but believe me, it's not. Choosing the right words, knowing how to challenge and how not to patronize, is a poet's craft. It is a demanding and difficult process but it is, far and away, the most fun I have ever had while writing.

I was reminded of why I write today at the NYPL. That's the amazing thing about libraries that bookstores just don't seem to have. What I'm talking about is dialogue. Dialogue between author and reader and the knowledge that one is, without a doubt, in the presence of shared magic. Because doesn't a book become that much more important, that much more exciting, when there is someone to discuss it with and someone who has come to those same pages before?

Take some time out of your week and visit your own public library. Browse the shelves or sit in a little quiet corner and take it all in. Even without the talking, there is much to be heard.

Enjoy the week!