Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Writing Wisdom: Katherine Paterson
Paterson warns authors that presenting a moralist story is a novel that is “dead and embalmed.” Instead, she wants to see books that are lively explorations of the human experience, “of the way things are, not what the author wishes they were.”
She feels the media provides nothing but a “a steady diet of brain-draining drivel,” and asks, “When did we as a society turn our back on beauty, simplicity, harmony, and brilliance?”
But that doesn’t mean writing should be merely to present the beautiful. “Art should be truth,” she says, “not beautified. I am forever changed by every book I’ve ever read.”
She wants to read books that changed her life. “I laughed. I cried. That’s what literature is supposed to do,” she says.
The author of over fifteen novels, Paterson says, “I hope children will read my books with joy.”
She encourages parent and teachers to read aloud to child, trusting them to let the words themselves speak to them. “As authors, give readers the best you have,” she says. “You never know how your story will affect them, so don’t try. to impose a meaning onto them. The results are not in our hands.”
She tells authors to “listen to the story to see how it needs to be told. One idea does not a novel make.”
In a reflective moment she says, “The minute I become more important that the story, that’s the minutes I’m writing propaganda. When I sit to write Katherine Paterson doesn’t matter one whit.”
And that is true for all authors. The story is the part that matters, not the lesson the author intends to teach.