Friday, July 24, 2020

Seek and Ye Shall Find (Magic)

Today is the final day of the intensive six-week Advanced Creative Writing Tutorial I've been teaching for the graduate programs in children's literature at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. I was heartbroken when the entire summer term had to move online this year because of you-know-what. For there is a rare and wondrous magic in being there on the beautiful Hollins campus, surrounded by fabulously creative colleagues and students, all committed to growing in our craft as children's book writers and illustrators.

I pledged to myself (as I shared in an earlier post) that I was going to do all I could to make the Hollins magic happen anyway.

And guess what? It did.

I saw my students blossoming as they produced thick stacks of truly amazing pages on their works-in-progress. I attended talks that were stimulating and inspiring. I took advantage of the brilliance of this summer's writer-in-(virtual)-residence, Anika Denise, to get her insights into a possible idea I have for a picture book biography.

Most of all, I channeled my students' creative productivity and hurled myself into revisions on my own work-in-progress, my first-ever verse novel, tentatively titled The Lost Language. I pretended that I was at "my table" in the Hollins library.
Or tucked up in the reading and writing loft at the top of this beckoning staircase.

And it worked!

I finished my revisions, and I had the strange feeling that there was something . . . special . . . about this book, that I had made some writing magic happen here that I had never made happen before.

I had a writer friend read the revised book. She said, "In my opinion, this is the best book you've ever written. I think it's absolutely beautiful." I sent it my agent that evening, and he replied before breakfast the next morning (something that never ever happens in the world of New York publishing): "Oh my, this is so beautiful."

The magic . . . happened.

But I realized that it only happened because I went in search of the magic. I believed that the magic could happen if I put my whole heart into making it happen.

In other words, my book didn't revise itself. I revised it, trying to make something as beautiful as what my students and colleagues were making. It was my seeking the magic that led me to find it.

I do believe that if we seek, we will find - or at least vastly increase the chances of our finding!

One of my favorite poets, Sara Teasdale, whom I adored as an adolescent, wrote this:

Stars over snow
And in the west a planet
Swinging below a star -
Look for a lovely thing and you will find it,
It is not far.
It never will be far.

To this I will add:

Look for magic and you will find it,
It is not far.
It never will be far.

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