The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Blotting out birds

As I learned and as I wrote, I dreamed of girls who would make the same bird-bug-garden discoveries as they read Lanie’s story–so this was extra sweet fan mail from a girl who describes herself as Lanie’s twin:   OMG you have made a change to my life.  I LOVE the Lanie books.  I enjoy listening to birds now because when I hear them I listen to what they’re saying so I’ll know what kind they are.  My friend acts like Dakota and I act like Lanie.  We even try to figure out what birds are around us!!

For years, I’ve pointed out to kids (and adults) who want to be better writers, that it has a lot to do with better focus.  Better attention.  Who was it that said to be a good writer, be someone on whom nothing is lost?  Birds were one of those things pretty much lost on me…except for the Ethiopian pigeons my brother and I wrote about, and that was because THIS got my attention:

When I discovered the Hesston, KS arboritum and started walking there, it was big, dramatic birds that made me look.  I’d never had a goose hiss at me until I tried to share the arboritum path with one.

But then Nancy fell in love with Jim.  Spending time in Boston with Jim, It was impossible not to get at least a little hooked by bird love.  And when I thought of Boston and the nature Lanie might discover in her own back yard, I thought of Jim and birds.  The thing is, I related to the Atlanta girl who swiped another doll’s glasses for her Lanie doll because I started wearing glasses in fourth grade.  I told Jim glasses + binoculars never worked for me.  After he gave me tips (which I had Lanie’s aunt pass on to her), I went for a walk in Lawrence and decided to work on actually seeing–and jotting down observations about–the first bird I heard.  Then I’d go back home and look at my bird book and identify it.

Okay…no laughing.  I was proud of my work.

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