Word After Word After Word, by Patricia MacLachlan, is not just a beautiful story, it’s also a writing guide. When author Ms. Mirabel comes to teach Lucy’s fourth grade class, she explains that she writes to “change her life” but “people write for other reasons” and “all these reasons are good reasons.” Lucy also wants to change her life, but she’s convinced she has nothing to write about except sadness. As the class learns the basics of storytelling (landscape and setting shape character) and get the inside scoop on writing (outlines are silly!), Lucy discovers her reason for writing: to express what’s too hard to say out loud. MacLachlan provides snippets of the children’s “writings” and they’re simple but good. Thanks to this book, I feel encouraged to write unabashedly as well, although I wish the words would “whisper in my ears” as audibly as they do in MacLachlan’s.
Lois Lowry’s autobiography, Looking back: A Book of Memories, is like poring over her family album as she reminisces over a cup of tea. Paired with family photos (Lowry was a really cute toddler), the glimpses are often personal but not intrusive, funny, wistful, sad, a bit philosophic and evocative at times. Lowry describes her snapshots as perpetuating pieces of a kinetic sculpture, one memory leading to another, until one see the threads between them: Lowry, a shy but sharp observer even at a young age; family dynamics, especially those between sisters; the importance of keeping memories, both good and bad. Fans of Lowry’s books will especially appreciate seeing how moments in her life become a nesting ground for the stories we treasure. I also enjoyed the tender timey-wimey moments where Lowry imagines her younger self conversing with her mother when she was also at that age. Because until someone invents a functional time machine, our memories will have to suffice both for looking back, and forwards as well. That’s enough stories to last a lifetime, really.