I always look forward to Shawn MacKenzie‘s brilliant posts. And here is another. Drink this in! Suck it up with a straw and savour the wit and intelligence and pure quality of her writing. I am so glad she is my editor and the editor for Plum Tree Books. This is the standard to which we aspire.
The Round and the Furry – When Good Letters Go Bad.
“My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles,
and the letters get in the wrong places.”
A fragile day, today – last week still weighs heavily – and I was tempted to throw the corner open to you readers in a sort of Q & A: you ask me your most pressing editing questions and I provide pithy bon mots in return. However, the writer in me seems to have a hard time settling for such a terse exposition.
So, a story.
When I was a kid, I was a notoriously bad speller. Oh, I could memorize word lists for tests, but back when I was nine, the rules and vagaries of English spelling seemed as nonsensical as a Hatter’s high tea. As much as I loved roaming through dictionaries, etymology was an undiscovered country to…
When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down.
One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.”
Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!”
I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I?
I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.”
Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray.
With love from Dr. Niamh,
Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books. www.drniamhchildrensbooks.com