Monday, November 12, 2007

A teacher's question answered

I received this provocative question from Vancouver Island teacher Ron Mollinga today:

"As a teacher, I would like to know: Should author's write selfishly for themselves or thoughtfully for their readers?"

Here's my response:

Such a simple question, and yet one that has captured the attention of writers for as long as the printed word has existed.

Like Philip Pullman, I believe that my most important responsibility is to the story itself. I suppose that’s why my writing ranges from books for toddlers to teens. I try to let each story that I write dictate the means by which it must be told and let it find it’s own audience. It drives my publishers crazy because it’s difficult to “market” an author when that author switches genera. It also means ignoring “trends” and fashions that might please readers. However, I truly believe that my job is to tell each and every story that I write to the very best of my ability and that means listening for the characters voices and actions to speak and do as they must. If I follow the dictates of the story, I sometimes have to throw outlines out the window, cut sections of writing that I love and have slaved over, and even kill off characters that don’t speak to the heart of the story. I take the responsibility seriously. If I am true to the story, I am true to myself, and also true to my readers rather than some undefined generalized audience that may or may not exist. I don’t doubt that if I wrote differently, I might have a wider readership. My books are not for everyone. But, if I have done my job, my story will find an audience. If a reader isn’t ready for one of my books, or if it isn’t the right book for them, they will find another; so long as parents, teachers, and librarians are there to guide them on their way.

You'll find more author answers to Ron's question here. I think you'll find the answers are as different as the books we authors write...

No comments: