Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Genealogy of Story

Perhaps some of you have caught the genealogy bug at one time in your life or another...which is likely as it's a fascinating and slightly addicting process. I've sort of sat by in the sidelines and watched other family members uncover fascinating bits of our heritage. I love seeing how certain family names crop up hundreds of years apart...learning that my great-great-great-and-some-more-greats grandfather had an occupation which I randomly assigned to a hero in one of my stories... I felt inspired and somehow fated to be a writer when I learned that both my husband and I had great-grandmothers who wrote for children. (Mark's grandmother, Hazel Louise Raybold Langdale, wrote enough that you can still occasionally find her books in used book stores, but I can't find anything by mine—anyone ever read anything by Elizabeth Agatha End?)


But I've uncovered another type of genealogy which is easier to follow and just as easy to become addicted to: the genealogy of stories. For example....


Perhaps you're inspired by the writing of Neil Gaiman...

Who was inspired by the writing of T. H. White...

Who was inspired by the writing of John Masefield...

And I'm sure go further if you're good at research.


Since my husband and I are great Gaiman and White fans, when we learned White loved Masefield's children's stories “this side of idolatry,” as he put it, we figured we'd better read them. I've been devouring his “The Box of Delights” and I'm stunned by the surety of story, the humor, certain sentences, wonderful use of phrasing and punctuation...in short, some of what I love most about White's and Gaiman's work. It's as if I could take “The Graveyard Book” and say, “Oh, he has his grandfather's ears!”


Here's another example:


You could be inspired by J. K. Rowling...

Who was inspired by C. S. Lewis...

Who was inspired by George MacDonald...

Who was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman...

(And thus we see it was actually peer pressure that decided her on the initials...:) And we can see the resemblance again: Fluffy the dog seems to have inherited the heads of the Mouse King in the Nutcracker. ;)

Now obviously, everyone has more than one “writing parent.” MacDonald had a large family, with such talented children as J. R. R. Tolkien and Madeleine L'Engle among his numbers. Rowling also claims T. H. White as an inspiration. And she says that Jane Austen is one of her favorite adult authors. When you start thinking of it as a family tree, it's great fun to think of what amazing authors can be seen as your siblings or cousins or aunts and uncles...

...and just imagine the super family reunions.

So, who's on your family tree? If you're “related” to L. M. Montgomery, J. R. R. Tolkien, Maud Hart Lovelace, or pretty much any of the authors I named above, we could be long-lost cousins! :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paradox

Someone shared a quote with me that of course I can't find to quote exactly or attribute properly...but it was something like: Only a poet can truly appreciate Christmas.
The reason? Christmas is a time of paradox. G. K. Chesterton called it "topsy-turvydom," which is really the perfect word to describe the indescribable mystery of God becoming man, of the Almighty becoming a baby, of a King taking shelter in a stable. Your brain will go in twists and turns trying to comprehend it; and yet perhaps the best ways we have to understand have been passed along not in doctoral theses, but in carols; even the Gospel's story is so beautiful, poetic, and lyrical that you can just close your eyes and listen to the rhythm of it in any language and still be touched. (Why do you think A Charlie Brown Christmas is such a classic?)
And of course we writers have all noticed another paradox, completely un-theological, connected to the Christmas season: "they" always say not to submit to editors between Thanksgiving and Christmas because the editors are too busy to read submissions...but what author on earth has the free time to be submitting then anyway?
:) I'll be back to blogging and reading and commenting again seriously in the New Year, but until then I have mysteries of Christmas to share with my children, writing to squeeze in when they're asleep and I'm not making them presents, and lots of rationalizing as to why I'm still not making all the Christmas cookies I planned on this year....
In the meantime, I pray that you all have a most blessed and merry Christmas! God bless you!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Highlights Foundation Conference and Scholarships

This afternoon, I receieved the following lovely email from the wonderful people of the Highlights Foundation:

You may know someone who is hesitating to pursue his or her Chautauqua dream due to finances. The Highlights Foundation offers scholarships and now is the time to find out more.

A lot of children's writers dream of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. "Next year," they promise themselves. "Next year I'm going to Chautauqua!" Then reality sets in. The drive and talent to support the dream are there, but the finances . . . maybe not.
Please encourage your writing friends to stop dreaming and start planning! Pass along our scholarship newsletter. Scholarships will be considered in two groups. Early applications will be accepted through December 15, 2010. (Final scholarship deadline is February 11, 2011.)

Last year, my husband Mark attended the conference (and they generously allowed me to join him to sit in on a few talks). I'm not sure how to stress emphatically enough how amazing an experience it was. If you have any interest at all in attending, if you need encouragement and wonderfully constructive criticism of your work, if you want to network with like-minded writers and illustrators in person...you really need to check out their website. Read about the conference; read some of the past talks (under "Writing Tips"); look around. And get your mind off Christmas preparations just long enough to apply for the scholarship. They are very very generous, first of all; secondly, once you get there you'll realize that it is worth every penny, regardless.

On a personal note, I apologize for my lack of blogging lately... My writing mind seems to shut down a few days after Thanksgiving and not awaken until New Years! I am managing to write, but the blog frowns at me whenever I look at it, which leads to grumpy posts. I promise I'll try to write more, but only happy things are allowed. :)