carolyn mackler’s visit & a holiday in the forest

BH and I scurried down from the tundra to Syracuse last night to listen to Carolyn Mackler talk about her writing and her experiences with having her books challenged and banned.

That’s my friend and fellow author Ellen Yeomans on the left, Carolyn, and me with the goofy face.

Carolyn gave a terrific speech that including reading some letters from readers that moved me to tears. She’s had to deal with terribly nasty challenges, but she’s handled them with grace.

It was also very nice to finally meet my LJ friend freakfest! An unexpected delight was the presence of a group of students from Chittenango High School. Several of them remembered me from my school visit four years ago. It was really nice hanging out with them. I would love to see more area high schools sending interested groups of students to this library’s annual Banned Books lecture. It is a whopping teachable moment.

While Speak is at position #65 on the ALA’s Banned Book List for 2006-2007, Carolyn’s book, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things sits a few spots above it, and has made it to the Top Ten a few times. No author ever wants to have their book challenged or banned, but it provides us all with a tremendous opportunity to revisit the principals of the First Amendment and continue to fight for our guaranteed rights as Americans.

Which is more important now than ever.

And speaking of attacks on the Constitution…. I still think the bail-out bill gives too much authority to the Treasury Secretary, and not enough accountability.

But I am not going off on a political rant today. (Shocking, I know.) Today is the birthday of my youngest daughter, Meredith, aka The OfficeMouse, aka Daughter #3.

A rare photo of Mer sitting still.

Happy 21st Birthday, darling girl!

to the parents of the future writers of America…

I often hear from young readers asking my advice about how they can become an author, but yesterday, the question came from a different angle. The mother of a talented teen writer wrote in asking my advice.

She wrote “I need some advice (please)…… My teenage daughter writes beautifully and her teachers are saying she should consider a future in journalism or writing etc. When I try to discuss this with her all I manage to get is “I hate to write”. Did you know from an early age that you wanted to be a writer/author? How do I cultivate such a gift without turning her away from it? You know how it is when you are a teenager, the more your mother wants you do something the less you want to do it.”

My first thought was that I’d love to have coffee with this mom. She’s she’s probably a little overanxious about her daughter’s future, but most parents are, and besides, this mom is reaching out for some information. How cool is that?

So I wrote back: “I have a strong opinion about this, so brace yourself.

Leave her alone. Please!

I had no idea I was going to be an author when I was in high school. I didn’t major in English or creative writing or journalism (though I wound up working at newspapers for years). But I found my path. If my parents had dragged me to this path, I can guarantee that I would never have become an author.

There are countless ways your daughter’s gift can unfold. Please give her the space to explore them on her own. Fill your home with books, art, music, and good food, and keep the “You Must Be A Writer” pressure locked out.

If she does become a writer, please don’t turn her bedroom into a guest room, because she’ll probably move back home to save money.”

She, in turn, wrote back a very nice note thanking me.

I wish I could take some of that mother’s enthusiasm about her daughter’s talents and sprinkle it on the parents who discourage their kids’ artistic dreams.

Come celebrate Banned Book Week with me tonight! Join me in downtown Syracuse where the Onondaga County Library System is hosting a reception for and presentation by Carolyn Mackler, author of wonderful books like The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, and Vegan Virgin Valentine. The reception starts at 5:30pm, and Carolyn speaks at 6pm.