By Stacey McAnulty
I love a good quote and aspire to create one someday. Until I find the right words, here’s a list of my favorites to keep you motivated as you create literature for children.
“If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you.” -George Bernard Shaw (or possibly Oscar Wilde or Cecile Starr)
This is my personal approach to parenthood and writing nonfiction. Make kids laugh, and there’s a chance you can win their favor. Tickle their funny bone, and they’ll read your book (hopefully!). My new picture book, Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, takes fun science facts and makes them funner by giving our favorite planet the voice of a 4.54-year-old child. You can also try to tell your own children a joke when asking them to clear the table. Results are not guaranteed.
“If we are not willing to fail we will never accomplish anything. All creative acts involve the risk of failure.” -Madeleine L’Engle
For me, it’s not a risk of failure; it’s a promise of failure. First drafts are going to suck. Manuscripts get rejected. Reviewers are not always nice. Maybe calling these steps failures is too broad a definition. But inevitably, all writers face failures when we try to create something new. It also doesn’t help that the ideas in our head are so brilliant but they come out on the paper as subpar gibberish. If only there was a better way to download the genius bobbing in our grey matter.
“When I have something to say that I think will be too difficult for adults, I write it in a book for children.” -Madeleine L’Engle
We need two Madeleine quotes because she’s too awesome.
Writing for children is a big responsibility. So this quote might not be inspiring; it might be terrifying. But if we remember that our audience is smart and thoughtful—they just happen to have fewer life experiences than we adults do—we should be inspired to create smart and thoughtful work for them to enjoy. Don’t sugarcoat the difficult. Don’t shy away from the challenges of life. But don’t swear. Try to treat kids the way we wanted to be treated when we were young and able to sit crisscross applesauce on the floor for more than two seconds.
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill
Let’s be honest. It’s not that bad to fail once. I get that first rejection and I laugh it off. Maybe even post about it on Twitter or Facebook with an appropriate Betty White meme. Get that fifteenth rejection on a manuscript, and I’m heartbroken. But Winston makes a great point. Even when heartbroken that a certain manuscript will never be published, I’m always enthusiastic about the next project. The next thing I write will be my magnum opus. I start every project with this enthusiasm.
“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” –Indira Gandhi (quoting her grandfather Motilal Nehru)
When I was in college, my dad used to send me ten dollars every week for beer and pizza. (Though I’ve never been a beer drinker. Wine, please.) And with each Hamilton came a quote. This is one that stuck with me. Back then, I liked this because there was always that one guy in our lab group who did NOTHING while others worked. Yet, we all got the same grade. Now, I look at this quote differently. We all know someone who claims to be a writer, but that person never finishes a project. That person wants the title of writer or author but is not ready to put in the hours.
“Opportunity is missed because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” -Thomas Edison (or more likely anonymous)
Nearly every quote about failure or hard work seems appropriate for writers. Am I right? And while I haven’t worn overalls since 2003 (and that’s when I was pregnant and thought they made me look super cute, not just super big) this quote is still spot on. Opportunity is not just meeting an editor at a conference or cocktail party. We need to be prepared. We want to meet this dream editor AFTER we’ve put in the years of work and have a polished, beautiful manuscript ready to be sent off with the stroke of a button.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” -Vince Lombardi
I couldn’t consider myself a true Green Bay Packer fan without including a Vince Lombardi quote. And it was hard to pick just one. IMHO, this quote could help so many writers. If you’re someone afraid to submit because a manuscript isn’t perfect, Vince is telling you it never will be. I’ve heard many accomplished writers say they’re tempted to reread their published novels with a red pen. I’ve also heard other authors say they NEVER read their books once in print. So aim for perfection—which to me means “do the best you can”—but accept that you are merely a human author.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” –Stephen King
Stephen may know a thing or two about being a prolific writer. Enough searching for inspiration. Let’s all get back to work. Happy writing!
Stacy McAnulty is a children’s book author, who used to be a mechanical engineer, who’s also qualified to be a paleontologist (not really), a correspondent for The Daily Show (why not), and a Green Bay Packer coach (totally!). She is the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats Book New Writer Honor Recipient for Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Her other picture books include Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, illustrated by David Litchfield; Brave and Beautiful, both illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, illustrated by Edward Hemingway; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. She’s also authored the chapter book series Goldie Blox, based on the award-winning toys, and The Dino Files. Her debut middle grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, will publish in 2018. When not writing, Stacy likes to listen to NPR, bake triple-chocolate cupcakes, and eat triple-chocolate cupcakes. Originally from upstate NY, she now lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 2.5 dogs, and 1 husband.
Stacy’s newest book, My First 4.54 Billion Years came out 3 days ago! To read Kirsti Call’s review, go here.