Marsha Wilson Chall

Marsha Wilson Chall

Kids Ask

Why do you write and do you like to write for kids?

I’ve won­dered about this, too, espe­cial­ly when I’m hav­ing trou­ble writ­ing a part of a sto­ry! I’m sure one influ­ence was my father, who always told amaz­ing sto­ries. I’ve always loved to lis­ten to or read sto­ries. I sup­pose from that it’s nat­ur­al to try it your­self. I need to record my own expe­ri­ences to remem­ber and some­times to under­stand them. I also love words, to play with them either to make beau­ti­ful word pic­tures or to enter­tain myself. I am thrilled when I hear that oth­er peo­ple are enter­tained, too, so anoth­er rea­son I write is to share myself with oth­ers. Most authors real­ly want to com­mu­ni­cate with young peo­ple, whether it is to make them laugh, help them solve a prob­lem, or to share a sense of beau­ty with them.

Some­times an author learns a lot about her­self when writ­ing a book. For exam­ple, I learned how deeply moved I am by nature when I wrote Up North at the Cab­in. When I worked on Mat­tie, I real­ized how much I had missed not hav­ing a broth­er or sis­ter, and how much I real­ly want­ed to be friends with boys when I was grow­ing up.

Is it hard being an author?

Yes, some­times it’s as hard as “a riv­er try­ing to flow through rocks,” as a sec­ond-grad­er told me. Have you ever felt as if your head were a rock? I have, but I don’t give up. Writ­ing is work, some days easy, oth­ers hard. I always have ideas, but only some turn into sto­ries. I write lit­tle notes to myself in a spe­cial note­book about any­thing I think might be a part of a sto­ry someday.

Where do you get your ideas?

An idea might come from my chil­dren or from my own mem­o­ries or from the news­pa­per or even from a con­ver­sa­tion I’ve over­heard in the gro­cery line. When you think of your­self as a writer, I believe you’ll hear sto­ries, or parts of sto­ries, everywhere.

How long does it take you to write a story?

I usu­al­ly try to think out the whole sto­ry before I write. Some­times I’ll think about a sto­ry for six months before I write it down! I worked off and on writ­ing Mat­tie for about two years. Up North at the Cab­in only took two months to write, but the illus­tra­tor, Steve John­son, spent one year think­ing about what to paint and actu­al­ly putting brush to paper. Every sto­ry’s cre­ation is different.

How do you write a story?

I write and re-write a sto­ry many times, work­ing each word as if it’s a tiny piece of clay and I am a sculp­tor mold­ing a beau­ti­ful sculp­ture. It’s very hard for me to know that I’m tru­ly done with a sto­ry. I always won­der if it’s good enough. That’s one of the rea­sons I keep writ­ing, to get bet­ter and better.

What’s a good way for a young writer to get started?

Writ­ers are peo­ple who are very inter­est­ed in every­thing around them. Think of what inter­ests you and what sto­ries you like to lis­ten to or read. Then think of some­thing sim­i­lar from your own life or fam­i­ly expe­ri­ence or obser­va­tion of oth­er peo­ple or sit­u­a­tions around you. That’s the sto­ry you’ll want to tell. Do you like fun­ny sto­ries? What’s fun­ny to you? It does­n’t have to be a ha-ha joke kind of fun­ny. Read lots of sto­ries and books. Dis­cov­er what makes you enjoy one sto­ry more than anoth­er, then try to write some­thing like the one you appre­ci­at­ed. And that’s not copy­ing, it’s learning.

When can a young per­son become a writer?

Right now! You are what you do. If you write let­ters, essays, sto­ries, poems, or jour­nals, you’re already a writer. I always wrote diaries and lit­tle poems as a kid, but I nev­er believed I could write a sto­ry until a teacher told me I had to, and that was­n’t ’til col­lege! I wish some­one had asked me to much ear­li­er. Remem­ber, there’s no right or wrong way to write a sto­ry and, yes, there is a lot to learn about the craft of writ­ing, but the best way to learn is by push­ing your­self to do it! Michael Jor­dan did­n’t wait until a cer­tain age to start shoot­ing hoops. The court’s open, the net’s wait­ing. Just shoot!

I hope that books will be your friends for many, many years. Maybe some of you will want to write sto­ries to share with the world some­day, too. And I will try very hard to keep writ­ing good sto­ries for chil­dren like you to read.


Marsha Wilson Chall