Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Yes, but is it literature?

Ellen Howard posed this question this morning during the first faculty lecture. Early in her career, she said, she didn't "presume" to write literature. She's since changed her mind.

But what is literature? Ellen told a story about attending a writing conference at a university. She was having a piece workshopped and the professor leading it told her her work was commercial rather than literary. The writing was too clear and simple because, according to the professor, "what makes writing literary is its deliberate obscurity."

While this was funny as Ellen told it, I'm sure many "literary" adult writers would disagree. But it sure seems that way to me sometimes too--as far as some literary adult novels are concerned.

Ellen defined literature as writing
  • that's clear and simple,
  • that tells the truth as the writer has experienced it,
  • that is complex as life is complex,
  • that is crafted writing,
  • and that lasts.
Being entertaining, informative, and profitable are nice too.

She also addressed why literature is important. For one thing, she said, stories can point the way through life. They help us feel and develop empathy. They can also be empowering. And fine children's literature also offers hope.

You as a writer can't really know if what you're writing is literature. But you can ask yourself, "Did I tell the truth as I know it as clearly and simply as I could?"


Post a Comment

<< Home