|Mama Bear Nordstrom|
Whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself, in a writerly sort of way, I have a two-pronged approach to shaking myself out of it: 1) Reread the letters of Ursula Nordstrom, and 2) Pretend that she's writing them to me.
Nordstrom was the doyenne of kidlit--an assistant, then editor, board member, VP, and finally semi-retired "consultant" to Harper Books for Boys and Girls from the late '30s until she died of ovarian cancer in 1988 -- she extricated children's literature from its vat of sugar-and-spice, dusted it off, and set it down firmly in the real world. Nordstrom had no fear of the dark side. She edited and championed E.B. White's Charlotte's Web (First line: "Where's Papa going with that ax?"); her letters to White about Garth Williams's spider illustrations are priceless. She discovered Maurice Sendak and gave him a real job (he was dressing windows at F.A.O. Schwartz), hiring him to illustrate Little Bear. Under her aegis dozens of authors won Newberys, National Book Awards, and Hans Christian Anderson Medals. If you haven't read her letters, Dear Genius, you must.
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique. And if you block it it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.Dear Ursula, I keep that quote in my purse now, too.