Mister Rogers and Why I Don't Quit
This morning in the shower, I sang the above Mister Rogers song, remembering why I write for children.
For, while a hundred and dozen of my stories have been published, only two of my children's stories have found publishers. Still I refuse to give up on my four children's novels and several short stories; a picture book or two. A success-obsessed person might disagree. Why not focus on the things that are working, and forget the rest? I mean - what's the point of writing these stories that the world doesn't seem to want? Ah, but that brings us to the why. The reason I write for children is beyond the circumstances of publication. I have a calling, to seek out and speak to the child who is like the child I once was.
As a kindergartner I was terribly shy, in a welfare family, where every day was an ordeal because of my mother's disability. Mister Rogers told me I was fine "just being" me. To have someone take the time to tell me this changed everything.
A few years later though, I began to doubt. How could this sweater-wearing puppet-loving TV host know I was special? He didn't even know me! And yet in spite of my precocious doubts, at some level I still believed.
I grew in this sense of awareness that there were adults out there, kind and capable, who didn't fall apart over a broken zipper or what to make for dinner. Adults who believed the world was a good place. I could somehow believe it, too.
Besides Mister Rogers there were others, figures behind the stories I grew up loving. They were my guides, who understood how I felt about things: Thornton Burgess, Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Madeleine L'Engle, Marguerite Henry, Mary Norton, Kenneth Grahame, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Frances Hodgson Burnett.
These make-believers (including the creator of "The Neighborhood of Make-Believe") were willing to cross imagination's bridge and speak to me. Their efforts were not for "conventional success" but because they, too, had something to say to children.
Someone told me last year that I was her personal Mister Rogers. Nothing could have made me happier. And now I hold out the gifts of my hope and faith, and my imagination, intent on changing the world of that child I have never met.
I'm writing for you, kid.
Labels: Never Quit