When Linda Sue Park won the Newbery for A Single Shard she received the medal, as medalists do, at the annual ALA (American Library Association) conference. Her acceptance speech was so moving that many in the audience ended up sniffling. It was Father’s Day, and she gave her medal to her father as a Father’s Day gift and a thank you; it was a beautiful gesture and remarkable speech.
But the other moment that has stuck with me all these years––especially when I’m coaching new writers––is her talking about what she did before she had ever written a word. She had heard that every writer should read 1,000 books to learn how to write. You read to absorb all that great writing. So, she started to read. As I recall, one day when she was a young mother, her children came home from school hollering out their hellos as she sat on her sofa reading one of her 1,000 books. As the kids came into the room, wrangling for attention, she held up her hand in the international recognized stop sign gesture and said to them, “I’m working. I'll talk to you after.”
I love the fact that Linda Sue said, “I’m working.” Not, “I’m reading,” because it was important enough to her to say she was working because reading is a writer’s work.
So my first two tips to you are:
A) Read as much as you can, especially in the genre in which you want to write.
B) Your work is important. Reading is your work. Writing is your work.
Today’s assignment: write a scene where you’re at a cocktail party. Someone asks you about yourself. Considering my second tip above, what do you say? Remember to describe the room, the party, what people are wearing…anything that allows us to see you there. Use all your senses.