Yeah, you. The writer who’s reading this right now. There’s something you’ve been avoiding. You’ve been avoiding writing it, or you’ve been shying away from even thinking about it. Could be a scene, a confrontation, a character. Could be a whole book you’re afraid to start.
Chances are also good that it’s something you’ve already written, only you did it halfass. And you know you did. You’ve always had an underlying niggling feeling about it. You’ve done your best to ignore or dismiss that niggling feeling, but it’s never quite gone away.
Whatever you’ve been avoiding, it’s time to quit f*cking around. NOW.
Today, in your thinking and your writing, you’re not going to hide. You’re not going to allow yourself to dance around whatever it is. You’re not going to let yourself be distracted by how pretty you can get your dancing-around to be.
Today you will shut off the worries and fears–because those are about you–and just be about the work. Your work is something only you can do. You’re a writer, dammit. That means you owe your writing your raw and honest best.
The other day I went to a tapas restaurant with friends. (I know, I know. I should have been home getting my blog post in on time). One of the offerings was Brussels sprouts with crunchy garbanzo beans. This was the winner, the first thing we agreed on as a menu choice and the dish we enjoyed most. Later the extreme weirdness of this hit me. Who could ever have expected the revival of the Brussels sprout? In my childhood the sprout (by which we meant the Brussels sprout and not the alfalfa sprout) was associated with British dreariness, with chilblains and boiled wool and The Two Ronnies. It was the last vegetable I would ever have expected to make a come-back.
So what’s next? Blancmange? Steamed puddings? Vegetable marrow?
More to the point, what is the Brussels sprout of children’s books? What was once a staple and then fell out of favor and disappeared? I think it’s the full-length biography. Back in the days before the Dewey Decimal System abandoned the number 921 the biography section of a children’s library was chock-full of booklength, cradle-to- grave biographies for the middle grade reader. Some of them were in series (I was particularly fond of those orange ones when I was a kid) but many were one-offs, written by somebody who did rigorous biographical research and crafted a version of a life that was likely to resonate with young readers.
What happened? My impression is that we now consign biography almost entirely to picture books or easy reads. I checked this out in the latest Hornbook Guide. There are 58 biographies. Only five of them are longer than 150 pages.
One of the things that was wrong with the Brussels sprouts of my youth was that they were presented as good for you. Maybe that’s what happened to biography. It became good for you. Inspiring. Aspirational. Soaked in adult approval.
What was the secret of the recent Brussels sprout revival? Reviewing current recipes I have come up with the answer. Bacon. It’s time for a full-length biography renaissance. What’s the literary equivalent of bacon? I leave this question with you.