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



I ended up with four of them.

Sister relationships fill up my books and my author presentations–and now I’ve moved out to Portland where most of them live.  Feelings too deep for words are connected in weird and wonderful ways with those sisters.

My only older sister reminded us of this picture recently.  It makes me think about what novelists struggle with: human beings often wear their personalities and moods on their faces and in their bodies.  Older sister was the one, as someone said to my mom in Ethiopia (when that sister was only four), who was born a lady.  The expression on my face says irrepressible and mischief to me.  Note that I’m leaning on my older sister.

I basically wnated to be my older sister.

The sister a year younger than me looks cute and poised.  She still is.  It was thrilldom last year when she managed to get one of her boys to the Minneapolis American Girl store.

Sister Number Four looks dazed.  She’d probably been napping and her personality isn’t on her face–except that she looks calm and not easily flapped.  She’s deep and emotionally strong.  I used to wash her hair in boarding school–and she spent her college years living in the Illinois town where I had temporarily settled.

(Both that doll and the orangutan tee-shirt on the table will be part of an Ethiopia Reads fundraiser in Seattle on Dec. 17 to help kids in Ethiopia get books.)

When my brother wrote his first novel (first to get published, anyway), he created a scene where Pup gets all dressed up in finery, much to his digust.

Older sisters can be that way.  (Thanks to my son  for this one.)

So even a fun and funny book like The Pup Who Cried Wolf still embodies some of what the author knows about real life often from his or her life.

When we write and when we read, it may be partly about entertainment and distraction.  More often, it’s about deep connection–to our own lives and to the lives of other human beings.  That’s part of the power of being a reader.  Through mysterious connections in our brains, we empathize.  We see possibilities of how to live.  We come to know our sisters and brothers all over this wide and wonderful earth.

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