At the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator's conference we just had in Los Angeles, Kirby Larson gave a keynote on how whispers of the past speak into the novels we write today. Might the spunky Gilly Hopkins be spurred on by echoes of Harriet the Spy, and possibly even Mary Lennox?
I started thinking of the role of my own literary mentors in my writing. Madeleine L'Engle, whose courage to write about her questions instead of those topics about which she had sure answers, inspires me to tackle challenging topics of my own. Susan Cooper, whose books about the rising dark were lights to me when I could only see darkness in the world around me, and who to this day challenges me to write not only about my hopes, but also about my fears. And of course, C.S. Lewis, who found lens after lens through which to look at his own beliefs both through memoir and through fiction, and whose work dares me to dig deep.
Thinking about my mentors helps me see my work in a new light, to understand on a deeper level what I'm trying to do with my work. In another of my sessions at the conference, Emma Dryden spoke about the process of revision, of seeing our work with fresh eyes. I find it so interesting how one speaker's words echo off another's and through the layers, I come away with new insight. For me, the missive is to look closely at the work I admire, and use that work as a lens through which to consider my writing. To open myself to those fresh flashes of inspiration that only come when one braves looking with new eyes at a piece of writing.
The lovely thing is, bravery begets bravery. So, take a look at your own mentors. Bravely look at your work. And your work will echo with contageous courage that will spur others on, too!