I’m so happy to welcome my fellow-writers to join me in the expression of our love of words and language. Nancy Steward and Janet Ann Collins have picture books published by Guardian Angel Publishing and Barbara Ehrentreu’s young adult novel is with MuseItUp Publishing in the MuseItYoung imprint. You can see by the name of Jan’s blog, “Onwords,” that she enjoys playing with words and her linguistic abilities come out in all sorts of way. Holly is a real-life friend of mine who is a member of the same SCBWI critique group that I am. She has a fantastic fantastical imagination. Thanks, Janet Ann, for posing the question.
I think my love of words goes back to before I could read. My Aunt Martha kept me while my mother was a work. She had a large store of fairy tales that she would entertain me with. She used voices and facial expressions to go with the characters and kept me spellbound on cold winter days when it was too cold for me to go outside to play. Then when I learned to read, I carried books around the house because I loved them too much to put down. My favorite was The Bumper Book, which is an omnibus of different things, like stories, alphabet and counting rhymes, and poems like “The Owl and the Pussycat.”
The arrangement of words is endless. And that is one of the fascinations with them. But words are also important, and not just for communicating. This line is from the movie Arabian Nights: “People need stories more than bread itself. They show them how to live and why.” But we wouldn’t listen to stories if they weren’t intriguingly told, the storyteller pulling words like magic from an imaginary hat.
I have pages and pages of quotes that I’ve copied from books and other places. Sometimes the language is so beautifully put together that I want to be able to recapture the phrase at my leisure.
I love words with a lyrical quality and words that evoke images and emotions.
Here is an example from a kids’ book, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown by Sydney Taylor. The ten-year-old girl who is speaking is looking forward to getting a nice birthday present from her uncle. “Snuggling back under the blanket, she hugged her happiness to her.”
I know there are other writers who can express the love of words better than I can. Let’s take Aldous Huxley for example. (Maybe this isn’t exactly the love of words, but it is These words come from John, the savage boy, after he discovers Shakespeare on p. 89 of Brave New World: “He hated Pope more and more. A man can smile and smile and be a villain. Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain. What did the words exactly mean. H only half knew. But their magic was strong and went on rumbling in his head, and somehow it was as though he had never really hated Pope before; never really hated ; he had never been able to say how much he hated him. But now he had these words, these words like drums and singing and magic. These words and the strange, strange story out of which they were taken (he couldn’t make hear or tail of it, but it was wonderful, wonderful all the same)—they gave him a reason for hating Pope; and they made his hatred more real; they even made Pope himself more real.”
I think this why people say facts are just what’s there, but fiction is truth. In books, there’s a collaboration between writer and reader that creates the peoples and the situations.
I love puns and you can be sure I will do a Monday Metaphor blog on them soon. I think punning is something that is used by the majority of people. Jokes are quite often built on a pun and perhaps that is why some people think of them as a low form of humor. Other people think they are a clever use of the language. I’m in the second camp.
I know there are other writers who can express the love of words better than I can. Let’s take Aldous Huxley for example. These words are expressed by John, the savage boy, after he discovers Shakespeare on p. 89 of Brave New World: “He hated Popeˊ more and more. A man can smile and smile and be a villain. Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain. What did the words exactly mean. H only half knew. But their magic was strong and went on rumbling in his head, and somehow it was as though he had never really hated Popeˊ before; never really hated ; he had never been able to say how much he hated him. But now he had these words, these words like drums and singing and magic. These words and the strange, strange story out of which they were taken (he couldn’t make hear or tail of it, but it was wonderful, wonderful all the same)—they gave him a reason for hating Popeˊ; and they made his hatred more real; they even made Popeˊ himself more real.”
I think this is why people say facts are just what’s there, but fiction is truth. Not that non-fiction can’t be beautifully expressed, as well. It simply takes someone who knows how to put the words together. Words give us the power to plumb the depths of ideas and say truth.
I remember as a young child, just before going to sleep, thinking about the differences and similarities in words. I can’t remember a time when the putting together of words was not a part of who I am.
Today, if it is possible, that involvement with the language is even stronger. I almost consider it a different part of my being, where words are nurtured, coddled and codified to be revisited and used at a later date. For me, the use of language is a gift, and I treat it as such.
In fear of being redundant, Jane Yolen’s, Owl Moon, is such a fine work. A poem, really, with words flowing off the pages, inspiring young and old with their magic. It is the seminal work that inspires me to be a better children’s author. It is a bellwether book to me.
Author of One Pelican at a Time
Janet Ann Collins:
I first became interested in language when I was about three years old and my baby brother was learning to talk. Because he used intonation patterns and they expected words I could often understand him when the grown-ups couldn’t, which made me feel important. Just before my fifth birthday we moved from the East Coast to California and I was amazed at the different terms people used for things. For example, we had a sofa, but most of my new neighbors had couches and one had a Davenport.
A couple of years later my Grandfather moved in with us. Every day when we came home from school he’d play his five-stringed banjo and we’d sing songs from the 1800s, which had many different terms than we normally used, in the lyrics. In Sunday School I heard passages from the King James Bible, which contained words and phrases even more different than the ones we used in our conversations. And, since I lived in California, there were lots of Spanish names for places around us.
With all those differences, how could I not have become interested in language?
Janet Ann Collins
Author of Signs of Trouble;
Opening Eyes, Opening Hearts
I was always interested in words. I was so excited when I could read all the words around me. In third grade my teacher introduced me to poetry and I wrote a poem that was published in the School Bulletin for the whole school district. I also loved reading and my favorite was Alice in Wonderland with its fascinating and unusual words and experiences.
Later in my life when I started wanting to take graduate courses, I majored in American literature and also I took a linguistics class. Finally I realized though I still wanted to teach I wanted to teach reading and writing only. But the truth is my fascination with words and writing continues as I write and read more and more.
I hope this helps!
If I Could be Like Jennifer Taylor.
What really captures me is when an author creates characters that feel real. By the end of the story I want to be able to tell you what that character would do in any given situation, what foods they like, what makes them laugh or cry, what scares them. This goes for the main character as well as the supporting cast. If there is one book (books in this case) that I can say has impacted me more than any other, it would be the Harry Potter series. I feel like I know the people J.K. Rowling created and, in fact, in my dreams we are all friends. When I’m searching for a good story, my number one criteria is to find one with characters who I want to spend time with, or in the case of Voldemort, who has enough back story that I view him as a real person with a troubled past. I like people. They’re diverse and entertaining characters. So I suppose it makes sense to want the same from the make believe ones.
Thanks again, My Friends, for collaborating with me on this blog.