Tag Archives: ABCs of Writing for Children

Taking Offense is Offensive

21 Mar

“Offense is taken when people employ fear as a sixth sense.” The Crave

It’s easy for people to take offense when it was never given to them in the first place.  Being offended by something is equal to theft and should be punishable by law.  Though I suppose it’s natural to object to your sense of pride, race, sex, or nationality being compromised. But if you don’t report the crime, you’re innocent. In other words, keep it to yourself.

Sadly, a vocal minority refuses to shutup. In recent years, the world has turned the ‘freeom of speech’ and ‘separation of church and state’ bandwagon into the world’s longest roller coaster.

From censorship, to whitewashing the planet with political correctness, to the continued tradition of burning books, acceptance seems to be an endangered emotion as intolerance and hatred bulldozes the natural landscape.

We often hear “not in my backyard” used when someone is opposed to something entering their community. I think the time has come to take that phrase literally. If it’s your backyard, then by all means, we won’t have the “International Overweight Same-Sex Partner Practicers of Paganism Parade” march on your property. But if your nextdoor neighbor wishes to throw the afterparty, deal with it (quietly and in your own backyard). As Kathleen Duey wrote, “I do not believe in censorship outside the home. If you don’t want your kids to read something, fine. Adults and other people’s children are beyond your jurisdiction.”

As children’s writers we face a rogue’s gallery of enemies. From close-minded librarians, to spineless administrators, to opionated parents; the deck is stacked with trump cards, with none being dealt to the writer.

The bottom line is don’t try to purposefully insult anyone. If you don’t have any regrets after you, your critique group, your agent, and editor have approved the text, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. If anything the vocal minority will only bring your book to the attention of the open-minded majority thus increasing sales of your book.

Despite an increase in sales, it stings to think that any number of children may be deprieved the chance of enjoying your creative work. One must hope that as they mature they are given the freedom to think for themselves and then may discover your work and allow their children to feast upon its imaginative goodness.

For a hilariously insightful look I recommend reading Chapter 44: Censorship from “The ABCs of Writing for Children,” compiled by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff. Children’s writers share their personal experiences with censorship. Patricia Polacco wrote, “Mankind with creativity is filled with light. Those who aren’t are dark.”

Withour further ado, here is a joyful list of links that deal with political correct, censorship, and all things ‘offensive’. But beware that if you happen to take offense from any of these, well…that’s your problem and not ours. Though please permit us to laugh at the outlandishness of your offense. Good day imaginators!

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009: Published by the American Library Association.

American Bookseller Foundation for Free Expression: The title is self-explanatory.

Top Politically Incorrect Words of 2009: A detailed list from the Texas based ‘Global Language Monitor.’ My personal favorite is the listing for ‘Minority’ – “Talking about minorities is considered insensitive to minorities since this can make them feel, well, like minorities.”

Censorship Quotes: A slew of quotables on censorship. Some funny, some thoughtful and others like George Bernard Shaw’s “Assasination is the extreme form of censorship” are mind-blowing.

Politically Incorrect Dictionary: Half accurate, half edgy, this brief list profiles PC alternatives to politically incorrect words.

Banned Words: Another list of un-PC words.

Campaign Against Political Correctness: It almost seems hypocritical to take offense to others taking offense, but nonetheless it may be a cause you find worth fighting.

Advertisements

Morning Ritual

10 Mar

“Each morning sees some task begun, each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, has earned a night’s repose.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Writing is not a task; it’s a lifestyle. To climb the mountain of success, every imaginator must live the life of a productive writer each and every day. Just as breakfast is empowered as the ‘most important meal of the day,” what better time to swim in the currents of writing than morning?

Over the past few months I’ve developed and am ‘owning’ a morning ritual. It has nothing to do with push-ups, orange juice or tooth paste. Instead, this ritual is all reading, reading about writing. Monday through Friday when I arrive at work, I’ve conditioned myself with 4 tasks. Now keep in mind I have a desk job, meaning I literally (95% of the time) sit at a desk. I’m left to do whatever I desire, and take advantage by stocking my shelf with writer-friendly texts.

The first task is reading the daily entry from Eileen and Jerry Spinelli’s “Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself.” It’s short, simple and provides a motivational sting to start the day. The Spinellis use excerpts from children’s literature providing me with a crash-course in authors, titles, and quotable phrases. While this book was intended for youngsters, with 365 days, it gives me consistency, while instilling patience.

The second task is reading two entries from “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book.” This helpful resource furnishes readers with excerpts from children’s books, explanations by editor Anita Silvey, and comments from ‘famous’ people affected by the excerpted books. To avoid drowning in a sea of quotables, I’m purposefully reading this book slowly.

The third task is much like the latter, and I’m currently absorbing quotes from established children’s authors and illustrators in Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoof’s “The ABCs of Writing for Children.” This is a MUST own for any children’s writer. Though, reader beware. This book is so rich with insightful and inspiring words that if you take too big of a bite, you’ll end up with a toothache. I recommend choosing a section, such as ‘plot,’ ‘rhyme,’ or ‘book signings,’ and digesting its contents when best suited to your current stage of the writing process. For me, I simply choose one section a day and circle the sugary tidbits in pink. Previously, I used this slot in the morning to read “I Wish Someone Had Told Me That,” an e-book  from Children’s Book Insider with advice from a variety of children’s writers.

To complete the saga, I use the 4th task to read a chapter from a middle-grade or early chapter book. Previous selections include P.B. Kerr’s “Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure,” and Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler’s “Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls, or Does It?” At the moment, I’m playing in Neverland with Peter Pan. I’ve made it a personal goal to read all (most of) the classics. On deck is “Alice and Wonderland,” followed by “The Neverending Story.”

While some may argue that a writer should start their day writing, I do my best work at night. I’m more of a night owl than an early bird and therefore absorb in the morning, and create at night. More importantly, this ritual helps fill a void. Having not read as a child, and while currently living in Japan, I’m left out of children’s book society. But by ritualizing my mornings, each day I take a step towards the center of this joyous community.

Please comment below with some of your ‘writing-esque’ rituals.

Happy ritualizing imaginators!