Reading, at least reading live authors, should be fun. The best kind of education, surely, is one which encourages delight, communicates enthusiasm. Certainly the best kind of readers are those who feel the delight and enthusiasm. I can’t say that I write for children, except in the case of picture book texts, but I love being published for them. Children aren’t a different species, they are us, a few decades ago. And perhaps the part of us that’s still there, underneath, unrecognised, powerful: the part that includes the imagination.

We – teachers, librarians, parents, authors – have a responsibility for the imagination of the child. I don’t mean we have to educate it – you can’t do that, any more than you can teach a butterfly how to fly. But you can help the imagination to develop properly, and to survive things that may threaten it: like the over-use of computers and everything I classify as SOS, Stuff on Screens. I do realize that the Age of the Screen has now replaced the Age of the Page. But on all those screens there are words, and in order to linger in the mind, words still require pages. We are in grave danger of forgetting the importance of the book.

Susan Cooper
Speech given to the Youth Libraries Group, 1990

Sometimes it’s easier to be a lesbian in real life than it is to read a book about them. Real life is full of distractions that can dull the sharpness of what’s going on. If you’re at a party or a bar, there’s alcohol (there’s a reason for the long history of gay bars). There are other people; there are the daily demands of living your life. And we human beings are really good at ignoring stuff that makes us uncomfortable.

Reading, I think, is one of the most intimate forms of communication there is — even more than film or TV. A book’s words are in your head. While you’re reading that book, you become that book. It makes total sense to me that if you didn’t grow up seeing people like you everywhere, reading about someone like you can be an overwhelming experience. You’ve been conditioned to not see yourself. Seeing yourself turns your world upside down, and while it can be exciting and affirming, it can also be deeply disorienting and scary.

Malinda Lo
The Invisible Lesbian in Young Adult Fiction

Dispel every other thought

February 19, 2020

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice – they won’t hear you otherwise – “I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone

Italo Calvino
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller

If on a winter’s night a traveller is a meditation on reading, but it also deals with writing and writers. I’ve never understood why writers who write on writing get charged with creative onanism when artists are allowed to paint themselves until the Rembrandts come home or a work like Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra – music about music, right? – is fine with everyone.

David Mitchell
Enter The Maze

store echoes of everything

February 8, 2020

Ideas come out of the unconscious mind: that shadowy place in which – though we don’t know it – we store echoes of everything we have ever seen or heard or done, every person we’ve met, every story we’ve read. In there, all these old scraps are melted together, as if in a furnace, and once in a while, if you’re lucky, they fuse into something bright and astonishing. I think the process starts the day that you are born.

Susan Cooper
Kids Read

I read voraciously and widely. Mythic matter and folklore made up much of that reading – retellings of the old stories (Mallory, White, Briggs), anecdotal collections and historical investigations of the stories’ backgrounds – and then I stumbled upon the Tolkien books, which took me back to Lord Dunsany, William Morris, James Branch Cabell, E.R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake and the like. I was in heaven when Lin Carter began the Sign of the Unicorn imprint for Ballantine, and scoured the other publishers for similar good finds, delighting when I discovered someone like Thomas Burnett Swann, who still remains a favourite. This was before there was such a thing as a fantasy genre, when you’d be lucky to have one fantasy book published in a month, little say the hundreds per year we have now.

Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint: A Life of Stories
Terri Windling

we write fantasy

February 6, 2020

In the end, we write fantasy not so much about mythic powers as about that battling mixture of good and evil that’s in the minds of all men and all women. About how bad things can be done in what seems to be the service of good, when someone forsakes humane doubt to follow that terribly dangerous thing, an absolute certainty. Look at these people, we’re saying to the kids who read us: look at them, none of them is all good or all bad, but each one has to choose his or her own way between the two. Look at these people, they are us, they are you.

We don’t say this in so many words, of course. That sort of thing went out with the Victorians. We tell stories, we paint pictures with words, we try to cast that spell by which something flows directly from the imagination of the writer into the imagination of the child.

Susan Cooper
Libraries are the frontline in the war for the imagination
The Guardian, Wednesday 11th December 2013

altered as human beings

February 4, 2020

In films, we are voyeurs, but in novels, we have the experience of being someone else: knowing another person’s soul from the inside. No other art form does that. And this is why sometimes, when we put down a book, we find ourselves slightly altered as human beings. Novels change us from within.

Donna Tartt
Interview with Laurie Grassi for Chatelaine Book Club, 8th November 2013

magically burst forth

January 19, 2020

Writing and reading are the only ways to find your voice. It won’t magically burst forth in your poems the next time you sit down to write, or the next, but little by little, as you become aware of more choices and begin to make them – consciously and unconsciously – your style will develop.

Dorianne Laux
The Poet’s Companion: A Guide To The Pleasures Of Writing Poetry

poems are bodies

January 18, 2020

I do think there are poems that work better out loud than on the page. Spoken word poems can be exhilarating in performance and one-dimensional on the page. Likewise, there are poems that rely on the authority of the type itself, and the physical relationship between the words, the white space on the page, and the reader. I often tell my students that poems are bodies; we visually take them in and feel them in our guts even before we read the words. William Carlos Williams’ “Red Wheelbarrow” is pretty unglorious out loud. I’ve heard a recording of Williams reading it. His voice sounds like the Sherriff on Deputy Dawg, and he reads the poem without emphasis or opinion; it’s over before you know it. Now, on the page, that poem is endlessly compelling. Near-rhymes, stanzas that are visually constructed to look like wheelbarrows, the splitting of compound words into their constituent parts: wheel from barrow, rain from water. I think as my work has matured it may have become less entertaining at a poetry reading and more interesting on the page. As I have aged I have also become shy.

Diane Seuss
Interview in The Smoking Poet (Winter 2009/2010 issue)