Thursday, September 27, 2012

Roots And Nuts

A nut doesn't fall far from the tree. I heard that as a kid, and at first I thought I was simply being called a nut. And while that may be true, the real meaning of the saying rings true for me as well.
I don't think it necessarily means we are bound by nature to be the behavioral spitting image of our parents. But I do think we grow in the shadow of a tree and our world view is very influenced by the type of forest surrounding us. Not determined by it, because we do have the power to decide who we are, but still influenced by it.

I was a late bloomer. I was slow to grow up (still working on it) and sometimes wonder if that is one reason I like to write children's books. I heard once, at a Highlight's for Children writer's workshop, that our imaginations are sometimes sparked, engaged, jump to warp speed, at a certain age. And that is the age of children for whom we do our best writing. It is part of the genre argument...pick one and write it and that's who you are as an author. As my current publisher, Richard Tate, told me, we don't walk in to a bookstore and wonder what kind of book we'll get if we buy a Danielle Steele or a John Grishom. We know. Publishers want that for their authors.

I've fought that notion. I say to myself that I need to write in different genres. I loved write for hire work I did for Augsburg Press, daily devotionals for adults. I loved writing Sunday School materials for High Schoolers. I loved writing musicals with my partner, Edie Elkjer. We wrote for middle grades. Then I wrote musicals for our church High School group. I love writing rhyming stories... the first thing I sold was a rhyming story about a frog king that Highlights bought. And my picture book that is now under contract with Tate Publishing is a rhyming story.

So, what about that tree analogy? What kind of a nut am I? I think about the literature I loved the most when I was a kid. It was any hero's journey where some good came out of the struggle. It could be Homer Price, it could be the Narnia Books, it could be Peanuts cartoons. I always loved it when hope at least glimmered, and people (or creatures) had the opportunity to become their best selves.
I'm still hoping I can publish my YA novel about a Soviet ballerina in the '60s. It may have to be under a nom de plume! We wouldn't want readers to wonder what kind of nut was inside once they know Judy Beglau is a picture book writer! Some people like the mixed nuts. But I guess if you are an almond purist you don't want hazelnuts mucking up your taste buds!

My mom is a really good writer. As a teenager I was struck to my bones by a poem she wrote just for herself. And she was always making up rhymes for coworkers' going away parties, etc. And my grandfather, her dad, published a book of poems. So....when I'm wondering what kind of nut I am, maybe the answer doesn't fall far from the tree. If my alter ego wants to publish a YA novel she'll just have to get her own publisher!

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