Tag: Jane Yolen

The Writer’s Three Priorites

Over the next few months I’m sharing excerpts from Writing the Sacred Journey so I can take a break from writing about writing to actually do some writing!

One spring I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was privileged to hear Jane Yolen speak. Yolen, the author of over a hundred children’s books, identified herself as a Jewish Quaker. She spoke on the hazards of addressing spiritual questions in books for children, explaining that children’s book buyers are primarily public schools and libraries, which tend to shy away from spiritually inclined literature. Nonreligious publishers are often unwilling to take on material that might prove controversial. Yet as Yolen pointed out, children ask spiritual questions: Where did Rover go when he died? Why do some people attend church and not others? Who is God? Yolen argued that we do wrong by our children when we censor stories that might aid them in their seeking.

After Yolen’s lecture a member of the audience asked, “To whom do you think children’s authors should be accountable for the moral quality of their books?” The questioner was concerned that indoctrinating content might wind up in her children’s hands. Yolen responded fiercely, “Every writer has three responsibilities: first to the story, second to yourself, and finally to your audience.” Continue reading

The Story Comes First

T sunsetIf I had to point to one piece of writing advice that upon which my work is built, it would be the fervent words of children’s author Jane Yolen.  She had just finished a lecture on the importance of addressing faith questions in books for kids, despite the fact that the primary book-buyers are public schools and public libraries, when a member of the audience challenged her: Shouldn’t writers be accountable to those who buy the books? Yolen got angry. “All writers are accountable to three things, in this order: First we’re accountable to the story. Second we’re accountable to ourselves. Only lastly are we accountable to our audience.”

So many of us jumble these priorities! Continue reading