Tomorrow’s do-ers are reading kidlit today. Keep writing!
You may have missed it, but this past Friday a rocket returned to Earth and landed on a floating platform bobbing on the waves in the Atlantic Ocean. And this time, it didn’t explode.
The event was a testament to the power of imagination. The Falcon rocket (named for Star Wars’ Millenium Falcon) had just launched the Dragon capsule (named for Puff the Magic Dragon) to rendezvous with the International Space Station. It landed on the barge Of Course I Still Love You (named for a ship in the science fiction novel The Player of Games).
The founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, loves to read. He spent much of his childhood reading. He continually vacuumed up fiction, science fiction, nonfiction, comic books and, when he ran out of books, the Encyclopedia Britannica. When he grew up, he was impatient that the imagined future of his childhood had not yet delivered electric cars and rockets to Mars. So he decided to make these things happen, and he is doing so. Musk also founded Tesla Motors.
Oprah Winfrey also read voraciously as a child. “I learned to read at age 3 and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi.” “I had big dreams at a time when being a Negro child you weren’t supposed to dream big. I dreamed anyway. Books did that for me.” When she grew up, Oprah conquered the world of media, making her mark as an actor, talk show host, magazine publisher, philanthropist, and of course as the founder of the biggest book club in history. When the American Library Association made her Honorary Member for Life, they wrote, “Oprah Winfrey, through her Book Club, has done more to revitalize and promote the importance of reading among American citizens than any other public figure in recent times.”
Right now, all over the world, tomorrow’s adults are reading and dreaming the future–their own futures, and the future we all share as members of the same world. And when they get there, they will make that future happen, inspired by the ideas of the authors of the books they read when they were young.
Do you write for children or teens? Then you’re helping to write the future. You don’t have to write science fiction, or make it onto Oprah’s book list, to do this. Whatever you’re writing is important to someone.
- Your protagonist may help readers develop sympathy for people living with disfigurement or illness, like the characters in Wonder, The Scar Boys, and The Fault in Our Stars.
- Your readers may relate to characters who are navigating relationships with parents, siblings, friends, and romantic partners, like the ones in I’ll Give You the Sun, Eleanor & Park, and Paper Towns.
- Or your story may help readers understand the whole sweep of human experience by exploring other cultures and periods of history, like Esperanza Rising, The Book Thief, and Number the Stars.
- Maybe your main character provides a role model of strength in the face of adversity, or of doing the right thing even while pressured to do the wrong thing, or of having trouble figuring out what right or wrong is, but deciding that it’s important to try. The Hunger Games trilogy comes to mind.
Or maybe your story is nothing like any of these. That’s fine. You’re still writing the future. Any book that a young reader relates to, that captures the imagination and makes a child or teen think, understand, and imagine, touches the future. Any picture book that makes a child laugh, gaze in wonder at the illustrations, or sigh with contentment, touches the future. Your story may affect the personal journey of one individual. It may inspire tomorrow’s adults to build rockets to Mars. It may even spark a quiet revolution in how a whole generation thinks about others who are different from themselves.
When the writing is hard, take a break. Read to the children in your life. Visit a library or bookstore and watch the young readers discover the worlds inside books. Or re-read a book that inspired you as a child–one that opened your own eyes to the worlds of possibility.
Then go back to your desk, and keep on writing the future.
What books inspired you as a child? Let us know in the comments!
Kniffel, Leonard, “Reading for Life: Oprah Winfrey.” American Libraries Magazine, May 25, 2011
“Oprah Winfrey’s Official Biography.” Oprah.com
Vance, Ashlee, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, 2015
Wall, Mike, “Elon Musk Names SpaceX Drone Ships in Honor of Sci-Fi Legend.” Space.com, February 4, 2015.