Wonderful Words: Madeleine L’Engle & More Thoughts on Age and Writing

2Q==Last week, I shared a sign I’d seen in a popular bistro while dining out on my birthday. It said, “If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you say you are?”

Coincidentally, I am rereading book I read and loved many years ago–Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, and on page 74, I came upon this:

I need not belabor the point that to retain our childlike openness does not mean to be childish. Only the most mature of us are able to be childlike. And to be able to be childlike involves memory; we must never forget any part of ourselves. As of this writing I am sixty-one years old in chronology. But I am not an isolated, chronological numerical statistic. I am sixty-one, and I am also four, and twelve, and fifteen, and twenty-three, and thirty-one, and forty-five, and…and…and…

If we lose any part of ourselves, we are thereby diminished. If I cannot be thirteen and sixty-one simultaneously, part of me has been taken away.

One of my dilemmas with the prompt I gave you is that my first instinct was to respond, “I am eight, or eighteen.” I wanted to capture the capacity for wonder that I deeply treasure as part of who I am.

But I have been through some LIFE. I am not only eight or eighteen, I know things that I have paid dearly to learn. Would I say thirty-five, maybe forty? Just how old am I?

And then I came across L’Engle’s statement. I am all my ages. I think the fact that all of them are very real to me is one of the qualities that enriches me as an author.

How can I write a picture book if I don’t know what it is like to be a child who is read to?

How can I write a middle grade or young adult novel if the middle grader or teen is not still very much alive inside of me?

I love writing for children, but when I’m actually writing, I am very seldom writing for some present day child. Instead, I write to delight the child in me. I write to answer my questions and yearnings as a middle grader, a teen, a young adult, an individual facing the challenges and journey that are life.

L’Engle’s words helped clarify the confusion within me when I first pondered the plauque on the wall. I am all the ages I have ever been, and I am continuing to grow into the age I am. And I savor that. What a rich and wonderful thing is life!

What about you. How does your age influence your thinking about literature and writing?


Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #87: Guess Your Age

bday cakeThis weekend was my birthday, and a very nice birthday it was. On Saturday, my husband and I went out to lunch with our younger son. The restaurant where we ate decorates it’s wall with plaques containing rhymes, quotes, and other thought-provoking or food-celebrating sayings.

Across from our table was a plaque that read:

  • If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you say you are?

Hmmm? Pretty apt for a birthday lunch.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how old I am or how I’d reply, but I couldn’t help thinking that was a darn good writing prompt. How old would you say you are? Why? Write about it.

Writing fiction? Choose a character you are still trying to figure out and ask him/her the question and demand an explanation.

If you feel like sharing your responses, please reply. Maybe you will even tempt me to share my response with you!

Tra-La, It’s May! Surviving the Season of Crazy

lilyvalley-vintageimage-Graphics-Fairy2Yikes, It’s May Again!

May–there’s Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and of course, Memorial weekend.

If you have kids, there might school activities like open house, the book fair, a school-wide art show, and final choir and orchestra concerts. If you have kids in sports, you probably have games every weekend. And all this multiplies per child!

If you have a soon-to-be high school graduate, May is when all the graduation fun begins–practice, parties, baccalaureate, lock-in, and more, all preparatory to the big event in June. (And don’t forget the actual May graduations from universities and colleges.)

Then, mix in possible birthdays (mine’s this month–and in such close proximity to Mother’s day that my eldest son grumbles every time this season rolls around), baby and bridal showers, and weddings. I’m exhausted. I don’t know if I have the energy to complete this post!

How to Survive

My Saturday morning blog reading was particularly fruitful today. Three posts, in particular, really inspired me.

Embrace the Blessing of Interrupted Plans

Check out: Motherhood, Transformation by Interruption.

Like Sarah Bessey, I am a chronic planner. I have lists of my lists, and even plan what I hope to achieve on a stay at home and rest day! However, the best laid plans often get interrupted. Especially during a crazy-making month like May.

What I learned: When plans get interrupted, go with the flow. Though interruptions may at first feel like adversaries, they very often are the delivery systems of blessing.


Check out: The Best Parenting Advice I Ever Received.

Amy Julia Becker reflects on her experience parenting a very able disabled daughter.

What I learned: Focus on what is good. Focus on what is a source of strength and joy. And appreciate these things.

Sure, May is a crazy month, but it also provides opportunities to invest in our precious children’s and loved one’s lives. Smile. Celebrate. And remember, summer is coming.


Check out: What Slowing Down Teaches You that Rushing Never Will.

Busy, busy, busy. That’s how so many of us view life and purpose. We even wear “Busy” like a badge of honor. However, Elisa Fryling Stanford observes her small daughter’s very different mode of living.

What I learned: Savor the moment. Be where and who you are now. Hold on to your schedules loosely. Consider lowering your expectations of yourself for just a little while. Maybe don’t even plan so much. (Especially this month, when so much is expected of you.)

I have had to learn this the hard way these last few months as I recover from a concussion. So I have decided it’s okay if this month (again) I don’t submit some writing project every week for representation or publication. It’s okay if, having returned to work, I come home for my Wednesday writing afternoons and only write a little. (I got a raging headache a week or so ago when I lost myself in “flow” and looked up to discover I’d been writing for two and a half hours straight. Ouch. Really!)

Right now, I need to embrace going a little slower, spending a little more time looking out the window at what’s coming into bloom outdoors, or just stretching across the foot of my granddaughter’s bed with my head on her pillow while she finishes her homework.

Yes, I have goals, dreams, and responsibilities. But when the calendar goes crazy, maybe its time to cut yourself a little slack and just savor the moment.

Enjoy your crazy, wonderful month of May!

*Lilly of the Valley courtesy of http://thegraphicsfairy.com/

Play With Your Words #86–Robo–uh, I mean Writing Prompt

I’ve been resting my brain by browsing through Pinterest and stumbled across the cutest “found object” sculptures. They are so charming, they just beg to have their stories told.

Writing Prompt

Choose one, or two, or all of the sculptures below and write a story using them as the characters.

Or click on the links beneath them to take you to their creator’s sites and choose one or another of their charming characters.

Created by Cheri Kudja https://literatelives.wordpress.com/wp-admin/upload.php?item=2288

Created by CheriKudja


Created by Cheri Kudja https://www.etsy.com/listing/113703945/dot-bot-found-object-robot-sculpture?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_campaign=Share
Created byCheriKudja


Created by Cheri Kudja https://www.etsy.com/transaction/61781395
Created byCheriKudja


Fobots Amy Flynn Designs http://www.ifobot.com/fobot53.html
Amy Flynn Designs


If you are a teacher and you are using this for a writing exercise, why not pull a couple of these links up on your SMART board, and allow the students to browse the other found art sculptures on the sites.

Before writing about your character, consider who he or she is. What might his name be? Where might she live? Who are his friends? What might normal life be like for her? What could happen that would interrupt that normal life and create a problem he or she must solve in order to complete her story?

Above all, have fun!

 A Bonus Idea

Parents or Teachers: consider having your student/s build their own found object sculptures to write a story about.