I’m in the midst of teaching a class on writing picture books, (co-teaching with the brilliant Andrea Zimmerman). Some of our students are having their first ever experience with critiques. I think it’s going well as we have a super-smart, very kind and gracious group of students.
However, it can be hard when your work isn’t received the way it was intended. Sometimes it’s because something is missing, or not quite working. But sometimes a story simply hits a chord with a particular reader and they run away with the story in a completely different direction than the author ever dreamed. We try to make connections through our writing, but we can’t control what connections are made.
I’ve always loved making Valentines. Hearts! Doilies! Red! Pink! Scissors! Glue! Oo-la-la!
All throughout elementary school, I made my own Valentines. Of course I made enough to give one to each person in the class – that was the rule. So, starting a few weeks ahead of time, I’d cut and glue and decorate to my heart’s content. And that’s the thing, making those Valentines was my delight. The making was what it was all about.
And then we hit fifth grade.
As usual, I dove into my mad delight of creation. More hearts, more doilies, more oo-la-la. I brought them to school and passed them out. As usual.
All of a sudden, the Valentines I’d made were studied. Scrutinized. Analyzed. Discussed and debated. Turns out I put more hearts on the Valentine for Boy X than Boy Q. But the heart on Boy Y’s card was awfully big and red. And how about that cool layering effect on the one for Boy A? Guesses were made as to who I liked best.
That was not my intent. I was not sending secret love messages or announcing my rating scale. Those shiny overdone Valentines were simply something I had a great and wonderful time creating. Until that moment.
I wished I’d bought the generic animal ones.
All we can do – as writers or Valentine-makers – is create. Snip and stick and shape and paste and delight in the process. To your heart’s content. Just fill it with love, lots of love.
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK