Daily Archives: June 8, 2010

On books, writing conferences, and trees . . .

The amazing Lisa Hale (faculty at BYU, extraordinary writer, excellent critiquer and a wonderful friend) has blogged for us before. She’s in charge of making the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference rock. She is very shy, quite beautiful and she is smart. Really smart. Everyone, please say ‘Hello’ to Lisa next week. You’ll be glad you did.

Box elder trees sprout up from the V-shaped samaras that have spiraled down in the wind. Box elders aren’t picky. They’ll grow most anywhere. And they’ll grow tall.

Some people call box elders junk trees because their rapid growth also means reduced longevity. Their branches break easily in the wind. They bring with them the pesky box elder bug.

But I love box elder trees. I love how they can grow a singular slim trunk in the shape of a woman or branch out into the perfect climbing tree. I love the way their branches split the sky and bow in the breeze.

Oak trees take longer—a lot longer—to grow. People watch their slow climb across generations, their plodding building a well-earned heartiness.

And then there are the other trees. The gingkoes that lose their fan-shaped leaves late in the season, the Japanese maples with their crimson, ragged lace leaves, and the catalpas that dangle long skinny pods like icicles in summer.

As the 2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference approaches, I find myself contemplating writing . . . and trees.  Both are alive. Both created. Both encompass so many different types—romance-adventure, realistic, dystopia, drama—and qualities, too. Some are written in breath-taking prose, weightless like shimmering honey locust leaves. Some are soft like the underside of a sycamore leaf. Others are page-turning adventures rendered in bold strokes like the black, eye-shaped lines cut into aspen bark. And yet, they’re all books . . . all trees. All interesting to consider, each work in its own way.

An appreciation of nature—I think—and of literature means cultivating an understanding of what is beautiful in all things. Every genre, every writer, every book and tree has its strengths and limitations. Going to a conference is one way to learn to see what we, as writers, do well, even brilliantly; it’s also an opportunity to search, listen, and discover the tools to help us become stronger, more beautiful creators of story.  —Lisa

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