What compels you to keep making art?
When my mother died, I was awakened to a sense of personal mortality. I read C.S. Lewis and Auden for consolation, but found little relief. Where I did find it was through the urgent rediscovery of a very mortal, concrete world, the same one I explored with my children, but through a new filter. What if this were the last time I’d ever see a tulip? Or, what if this were the first time?
Eudora Welty said that “children, like animals, use all their senses to discover the world. Then artists come along and discover it the same way, all over again.” So I write to interpret and preserve experience, to capture it so it can never be lost. Writing for children allows me that joy of experiencing the world over and over again for the first time. Adults lose this childlike appreciation and discovery through over-complication. I like to make the complex simple. Not simple-minded, but pared down to the essential.
I write to discover truth. I’m a teacher at heart, and sometimes I’m my own worst student. It’s as if I’m presented the same life curriculum over and over, never quite passing. I struggle to feel comfortable in my own skin. Children’s filters are much cleaner. They perceive, then feel. As an adult, I perceive, evaluate my perception, filter my feelings, check for authenticity; in other words, sometimes make the simple too complex. Kids are honest about real stuff. I can’t hide myself behind words when I write for kids. Like the pediatrician, I’m working with fresh material, not the damage of lifetime’s wear and complications. It’s great work if you can get it.