Monday, December 17, 2012

Patch, patch, patch.

       So, those of you who happen to be friends of mine, Facebook-wise, know that I post the words of any notable someone who'd chanced to have been been born that day in history. It gives me the chance to find out a bit about one of my fellow humans who entered the world's stage on, perhaps, a day like today - and, as a bonus, some insight or heartening quip to copy down in my little book, the existence of which, along with its fellows will probably inspire some lifting of eyebrows among those who'll go through my belongings someday after I get my ticket punched. ['Man oh man, Aunt Cheryl needed to get out more.'] For the record, the chemist Humphry Davy was born in Cornwall, on the 17th of December, 1778. He, most notably, appears to have detected the felicitous effects of nitrous oxide, a.k.a. laughing gas.  Anyway, what did Humphry have to say? For one thing: "The most important of my discoveries have been suggested to me by my failures." 
Humphry Davy -
cool cravat, no?

    The thing is, this past Saturday, while listening to the dreadful, unfolding news from Connecticut, about a man-boy who sought to right the wrongs of his life by ending it, along with those of his mother and, as a demented bonus, little children, all gaga with the holiday season, and those who spent their days teaching and guiding them,  I came across these words of playwright, Maxwell Anderson, born 15 Dec. 1888  – one of his works was adapting a novel into the play > wonderfully creepy 1956 film, The Bad Seed - how's that for appropriate? How is it that that quiet child was, in fact, a heartless killer, sans conscience and empathy? –  but I digress. As a matter of fact, I could use some laughing gas right about now.... Maxwell Anderson:  "If you practice an art, be proud of it and make it proud of you.  It may break your heart, but it will fill your heart before it breaks it.  It will make you a person in your own right." 
     And that long-gone playwright's words got me to thinking about the art we practice, that of examining, delving into real events, real people, and explaining them. Illuminating them. The proper pride we feel, at times, in getting to do this for a living.  In knowing that kids will find, in our books, a little more about their world, about the people who have gone before. 
  And how is it that we could make our art proud of us? By making certain that we're reporting the facts. The genuine words and actions. By writing, showing, telling about them in a way that is juicy and engaging. Heck, by pulling back the curtain and revealing a STORY that's cool, vivid, and real. Suspenseful. On which lives and nations hung in the balance.
    But then, how can this art of nonfiction break our hearts? Oh, that's easy: Finding a life, a chapter in the life of the world, with which or with whom you've fallen in love, for which no skittish editor is willing to gamble. 'No, too obscure.' 'No, I can't quite wrap my head around this concept.' 'No,   I couldn't convince the marketing people. How about....?'
   But look at what this person DID! 
   But look at how amazing this person, this time, this event was!
   But look at what could have happened! 
   But, in the end, look what and/or who we learned. And in doing so, our lives were enriched, in the ever-onward bumble towards a book that would sell, that would, that might give us another season of employment. And there it is: that which makes us people in our own right. The learning. The discovering that fills our patched-up human hearts, in this here vale of tears.


Myra Zarnowski said...

The same amazement and wonder that authors find is often matched by readers. A favorite comment a college student shared with me after reading a nonfiction book for children is this: Where was I when they taught this in my elementary school? Was I sleeping? There is no replacement for the excitement of discovering new and surprising information.

Unknown said...

Powerful post, Cheryl. Thank you.

Unknown said...
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