Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Anderson

Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Anderson
(or, why I write for children)

If Hans Christian Anderson were still having birthdays, today, April 2nd, would've been his two hundred and tenth.
which would make him so old, he'd
have to make a story about the enchantment
that made him so old.
Hans Christian Anderson was a guy whose stories of imaginary kings won him the admiration of real ones, and though he was a writer of travelogues, novels and poetry, it's for mermaids and matchstick girls, princesses and peas that he was adored. The noisy set of grown-ups called the world may consider work meant for children only a stepping stone to real work, but Hans Christian Anderson knew the truth: sometimes, when you spin tales for children
you spin the purest gold of all.
I have one children's book due for publication, one under the paintbrush, and a few on the drawing board. This puts me only one or two mountains of beautiful books behind a writer like Anderson. Still, I keep spinning stories. More like scraps into straw than straw into gold, but I keep spinning. Because I'm a sucker for anyone who smiles at me with baby teeth and says the magic words. No, not please and thank you... The really magic words:
"Tell me a story?"
I love telling stories to children. Because telling stories to children, whether the words are two hundred years old or spun out on the spot, whether they're read in a classroom or on a couch, teaches you things. Things like
the significance of little things
the importance of a good night's sleep.
how to make friends
with people who aren't like you.
the value of hard work
and the magic of tenacious hope.
the many ways love can change you.
and  that sometimes there are scary things
that just have to be faced.
 See? Stories for children are stories for people like me- people who yearn for meaning, even when have a hard time sitting still for instruction. 
Stories meant for adults may get hung up on doing things the right way, but the best stories for children understand that there are lots right ways to draw a good conclusion, and just as there's really no wrong flake of snow,
there's really no wrong Snow White.
 I love making stories for children because children understand fun, even though they don't understand sarcasm. When you talk, really talk, to a child, you have to work hard and use your words to say exactly what you mean. And maybe thinking hard about what it is you really want to say is part of telling your own story to yourself, and passing the meaning of your story
to those you love.

I love making stories for children because maybe, just maybe, telling children stories of a world full of courage, kindness and beauty is a way to make a world full of courage, kindness and beauty. As that great philosopher of the Twentieth Century Willy Wonka said- there really is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you really can be free,
if you truly wish to be.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post Susan! Thank you so much for this. This is a fine example of why I want my authors to come on this blog and engage. So get to it you all! And have fun! :)