Friday, October 28, 2011

The Stubborn Seed of Hope

How do you feel about middle-grade novels that deal with life's harsh realities? My debut novel, May B., focuses on a child who has been abandoned, who faces starvation and possible death. Several young readers have confessed parts of it are scary. I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with, though, is leaving my readers in a place of despair.

Here's a quote from the amazing Katherine Paterson on just this topic:

I cannot, will not, withhold from my young readers the harsh realities of human hunger and suffering and loss, but neither will I neglect to plant that stubborn seed of hope that has enabled our race to outlast wars and famines and the destruction of death. If you think that this is the limitation that will keep me forever a writer for the young, perhaps it is. I don’t mind. I do what I can and do it joyfully.”
-Katherine Paterson, A SENSE OF WONDER: ON READING AND WRITING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

I love Ms. Paterson's idea of a "stubborn seed of hope", something that grows beyond painful circumstances, something that can anchor both the character and reader in a better future to come.

 Do you shy away from heartache in the books you read or write? Why or why not?

7 comments:

  1. I do shy away, but I have to keep reading, writing, because I am a sucker for hope. Sometimes it's all the characters have. (Just like real life unfortunately.)

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  2. I'm drawn to intense stories and I love the "stubborn seeds of hope," concept. That's like hope in real life, like picking up and moving forward no matter what happens, and in our stories, having those harsh experiences help drive our characters' resilience and development.

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  3. Those stubborn seeds of hope are what got me through my middle grade years of loneliness and when I got to college, they gave me the tools to build myself more confidence.

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  4. I did find Bridge to Terabithia viscerally shocking--I don't think I could kill of one of my main characters like that.

    I can't wait for May B.!!

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  5. A story has to show some real life if kids are going to get anything meaningful out of it.

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  6. Like Paul, I adore that stubborn seeds of hope concept! It's like the light at the end of the tunnel -- you know you'll get through this. Sometimes it's what makes a novel that much better.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!