Heidi, Charlotte & Wilbur, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore

http://www.juniormagazine.co.uk/books/the-top-100-childrens-books/60.html

This list of “top 100 children’s books” as voted on by readers of Junior Magazine in the UK, made me think about my relationships with book characters over the years, both as mom and kid.  Heidi, Charlotte & Wilbur, Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, the Cat in the Hat, The Jolly Postman, James and the BFG, all of them made this UK list, but there are so many more.  If I were to make up such a list, as a parent, I’d have to include some Robert Munsch titles like Love You Forever, I Am Small  (Sheree Fitch), Red is Best (Kathy Stinson), Mr. Patapoum’s First Trip (Gilles Tibo), The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams), and The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein)

The list of picture books that stand out for me from my own childhood would include Blueberries for Sal, Snipp, Snapp and Snurr (3 Swedish boys), The Elves and the Shoemaker, Ollie Bakes a Cake, The Thornton W. Burgess books, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and so many more, the names of which I forget, but I’d love to have a chance to revisit my childhood library, as it was in 1965, or so. Characters in books become genuine friends for kids, and I guess as writers, our challenge is in trying to create those real-life, living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings (or animals) in print, as people for young readers to get to know and spend time with as friends.

As a footnote, I had to resort to Google more than once as I was writing this post:(  Who do you remember from the pages of your childhood?

Readers’ Digest version of Vonnegut’s Fiction-Writing Advice, and Bailey…

I love when Facebook friends post nuggets of wisdom – Kurt Vonnegut’s advice for short story writers came to me via FB this week, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyQ1wEBx1V0) and I thought I’d condense it for future reference.  It’s been amazingly helpful as I work my way through a revision:  In brief:

1) don’t waste a perfect stranger’s time;

2) give readers at least one character to root for;

3) your characters must want something;

4) every sentence must either advance the action or reveal character in some way;

5) start as close to the end as possible;

6) be sadistic – give your characters trouble so readers can see what they’re made of;

7) write to please one person;

8) give as much information as possible as soon as possible (in case a cockroach should eat the last few pages before your reader gets there:)

I’m feeling pretty good about my revision, and I’ve found myself  constantly referring back to this advice as I plug away at it. Of course, there are a million other things that he could have included, I suppose, but I like succinct, and this advice is that!

My whole family is home for the first time since Christmas, so I’m looking forward to having the kids’ energy in the house for a couple of months until they go back to school in September, although the house is still too quiet after the passing of our beagle buddy, Bailey a month ago, at the age of 15.

She lives on, of course, in our memories, and bits and pieces of her have already popped up, and will continue to appear, in my writing, as she was unforgettable in all sorts of ways! We’ll be scattering some of her ashes around her look-out perch at Horseshoe Lake sometime this summer so she can continue to keep an eye on the squirrels who think the cottage belongs to them during the winter…