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

Happiness and Terror

This fall when we visited the Little Family, we became part of the Big Soccer Scene of young athletes all over America.  Little Sweetie #2 dribbles naturally and easily, not looking at his feet, but in the game he waits for the ball to squirt out to him and doesn’t hurt people’s feelings for going after it.  His big sister has no such hesitations.

(Photos by their dad who got captivated by photography during a volunteer stint in Ethiopia and is itching to get back there and who also was the intense athlete of my three kids, leading to interesting life-weaving-in-circles moments for me watching soccer.)

Sports has always made sparks in my family.  My grandma (first left front) played on a basketball team that won all but one of its games for six years, starting when she was in seventh grade–and they tied that one.  When she played basketball at the College of Idaho, her father said he’d hoped she was ready to act like a young lady.  “But,” she wrote, “he never forbid my playing.”

Grandpa was one of the big kids in school.  He was hired to drive the covered wagon that Grandma rode in as a school bus, hot rocks wrapped in newspapers and blankets keeping everyone warm in winter time.  One Friday, some older boys asked the principal, “Can we go to Roswell this afternoon to play ball?”

The principal said, “Yes, you can.”   On Monday, he expelled them–on the basis of the difference between can and may.  Grandpa missed out on the rest of 8th grade.  Now that’s a serious grammar lesson.

Some people say sports should be zapped out of the school day.  Alas, I’ve also visited schools where reading aloud has been zapped out of the school day.  We can create smart, technologically adept, hard-working students if we pour their heads full of important facts…far, far better students than our grandparents were, our parents were, and we were.


Well, here’s the thing…brain research shows that what sticks is what rides in with passion.



Intense curiosity and wondering and sweat and clammy hands and giggles.

Powerful emotions make knowledge stick.

Sports are occasions for intense emotion.





Stories stir emotions, too.  They drench us with feelings.  They make the facts and understandings stick.

May all children have a chance to play with intensity.

May the children who are waiting for libraries get them.

May all children read and hear dazzling stories.

And as I arrive home, after my annual writing retreat, I say may I…and the other writers I love…learn how to write them, too.



Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.