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

Despair and soaring joy


Every artist feels it, I’m pretty sure.  My feelings about the novel I’m finishing up have zinged all over the place.

Now that I finally know what I want in each of my chapters, though, I can work any time and any place, including this chair in a hotel in Albuquerque last week.

“You write children’s books?” people say to me.  That has to be incredibly fun.

Recently, someone added, “Lucky you.”

Yes.  And no.  So much of art is out of our control…comes swimming up from some odd and mysterious place…refuses to become what it needs to be.

It’s been almost three years since my last two novels for young readers came out.  Granted, Lanie did make quite a splash.  Any American Girl Doll of the Year has instant fans.

So it was a tiny bit distracting to travel around and do book signings–including this one when I won the Kerlan Award from the University of Minnesota.  But it also made me long to write another book for that age of reader.

Why couldn’t I simply sit down and do it?

Sometimes I was distracted by the fun of volunteering for Ethiopia Reads (

And the book’s schedule wasn’t always in my hands.

But the main thing is that  it’s simply flat-out hard and failure-making hammering out a compelling work of fiction.




At the recent writing retreat, I realized that I had left some of the scaffolding hanging around from various drafts.


I’ve never had quite such a vivid experience of the well-worn advice to “murder your darlings.”


But this week…deep satisfaction. Soaring joy in the work itself.  And a lot of memories of different places where I wrote and revised.

Lucky me.


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