Monday, August 25, 2008

Dueling Dualities of the Writer Personality


One of my biggest challenges in writing picture books has been reconciling two fundamental forces of the writer mind-- that of wordsmith with that of storyteller.

More specifically, my wordsmith-self has had to make room for and help nuture the nascent storyteller-self, not too unlike an only child adjusting to the birth of a new sibling. Not surprisingly, I am left as the puzzled parent trying to survive the sibling rivalry of my offspring.

The wordsmith in me wants to linger in language and explore all the possibilites without enough concern sometimes for where the story itself is going. I am the sort of writer who many times prefers reading the dictionary to fiction (nary); except, thank goodness, for picture books, which stimulate my eyes and brain.

The funny thing is, I've never completely gotten "storytelling." It has never appealed to me in and of itself. I've always been fascinated by words, the building blocks of stories. Growing up, I probably never completely embraced my identity as a wrtiter because I had always connected storytelling with writing. "Writers write stories," I thought.

Fortunately, I eventually discovered amazing voices from the past who redefined the boundaries of what it meant to be a writer. Thank you, Lewis Carroll, e.e. cummings, James Joyce, and Edward Lear. They blazed an exciting trail of word experimentation that led to astounding discoveries in the use of language.

Nowadays, I still struggle with story, but I can't let go of the how of storytelling. Sometimes, I feel like a mason more in love with the stones themselves than the castles they can build. This does seem strange, but I like to think that my love for the stones tells me what kind of castle to build. Otherwise, I would never know where to begin.

Thank goodness for the talent and skill of my agent and current editor, who have been able to help lead this wordworker through the maze of story and into a better understanding of how to put the wordsmith in service of the storyteller.

2 comments:

Carrie Harris said...

I adore Lewis Carroll (and ee cummings, as a matter of fact). My computer's name is the Frumious Bandersnatch. Actually, I think this is the third in a long and distinguished line of Bandersnatches. :)

Candace Ryan said...

Hey Carrie,

It's good meeting you and Frumious Bandersnatch. Feel free to drop by "the wabe" anytime.