Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"They're Not Dumb, They're Just Young" -- Eve

When Reka Simonsen, Senior Editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, said the title of this post at the recent SCBWI Writers’ Day, Robin and I scribbled down her words immediately. It’s my new favorite quote for children’s writers. For years, Robin, Jay and I have discussed this topic at length. Kids are often way more sophisticated than grow-ups believe them to be. So, when I pick up a book that “dumbs down” the kid-speak or kid-think, it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. Thanks for nailing down our thoughts, Reka!

Other favorite quotes on writing for children that I toss out regularly:

“Show, don’t tell.”

“The story’s DNA is in the first sentence.”

“Write what you want to know, rather than only what you know.”

“Chase your MC up a tree, then throw rocks at him.”

“Kill your babies.”

“Boil your story down to one brief 'elevator pitch' sentence.”

“Sentimentality is a failure of feeling.”

“Character trumps plot.” - Jack Gantos

“Teens crave honesty.” - Laurie Halse Anderson

“Lift the carpet on your character to reveal the icky but true issues.” - Libba Bray

“I don’t like hostile narrators; however, there’s a difference between being harsh to the world and being harsh to the reader.” - Julie Strauss-Gabel

“Careful what you wish for.” - Robert Sabuda

“The road to publication is like a churro, long and bumpy but sweet!” - The Disco Mermaids

“Attack your next book with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!” - Dr. Stephen Holtzman

If you are an author of any of the first 7 quotes, please accept my apologies for failing to write down whose mouths they came out of! And, if you’d like, please identify yourselves here in the comments section.

Any other great writing quotes to add to my list? Thanks!

- Eve (favorite quote of all time: “If it’s not fun, why do it?” - Ben and Jerry)


karen lee said...

I came up with both "show, don't tell" and "kill your babies". But that was back before rehab.

You may credit
Fauna DeBare

Becky Levine said...

Oh, I need the author of the chasing your character up a tree & tossing rocks quote. (Probably should be a hyphen in there somewhere!)

I'm going to give a talk on writing at my son's old elementary school, and I want to talk about conflict and problems and goals with HUGE obstacles. Remember when we were young and wanted to write and we had these GREAT beginnings and these INCREDIBLE, EXCITING endings.

And in the middle, sometimes, a lot of fluff?

We needed more trees and rocks, and I want to tell the kids about this.

If I don't have the original author, I'll just have to attribute the quote to you, Eve!

Anonymous said...

" enthusiasm unknown to mankind."

I love the quote. But who is that Dr. Stephen?

Amy :)

Disco Mermaids said...

Thank you, Karen Lee!

Becky- Not sure who said it first, but Jay uses it a lot, so maybe it was him!

Amy- Dr. Stephen is waayyy more famous in these parts than that poser, Dr. Phil. Some of his best quotes:

"I wouldn't trade my wife for a good one."

"Why save for tomorrow what you can spend today?"

"You only get one ride on this merry-go-round, so when in doubt, buy the Ferrari."

Oh, that guy's got a million of 'em. He's a genius, I tell you!


Anonymous said...

That Dr. Stephen should get his own tv show. Or, would he say to my suggestion: "It's not worth it."? Lamy

Katie said...

Okay - I gotta ask....Who is this Dr. Stephen??!!

Disco Mermaids said...

Sorry, Katie...Amy (my sister) and I have obviously gone off topic with our comments!

We're sort of making fun of Dr. Stephen (who happens to be my husband) who has a lot of silly quotes he likes to throw around. Mind you, he's been a part of our family for 15 years, so we have alot of inside jokes making fun of him. In a good way. Sort of. He doesn't mind, believe me. If he had his own blog, he'd make fun of me too!

Sorry for the confusion. He really is a for-real doctor, though.


Katie said...

oh! Hilarious! I was picturing some kind of Dr. Philish type writing guru that I was totally unaware of...ha!

Lee Wind said...

Hi Eve!
Okay, "your story's DNA is in the first sentence" is kinda freaking me out...
I've heard about how the first chapter is the last chapter in disguise, and how the first and last chapters should "shake hands" but the ENTIRE story's DNA in that first sentence? How much of a run-on do I get to write?
We don't even get a paragraph?
And all I can think about is the Snoopy (from Peanuts) comic strips where he's sitting atop his doghouse at his typewriter, playing with the first sentence from "A Wrinkle In Time,"...

It was a dark and stormy night.

I'm listening to Madeline L'Engle read it aloud as an audio book right now...

And I'm not convinced the DNA's all there... maybe I need more evidence? (I still have a CD and a half to go...)

Wow - I've gone CSI...
Thanks for sharing these!

Anonymous said...

"Attack this book with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind" should probably be attributed to Stanford football coach, Jim Harbaugh -- or more accurately, his father.

Coach Harbaugh's dad used to instruct his kids before dropping them off for school to "attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind." When Coach Harbaugh took the Stanford job, he promised to "attach this endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind."