But Do We? by Jody Feldman

When I was first entertaining the notion of writing for kids, I suspected I was a picture book author, an idea that was underscored as I was reading White Palace by Glenn Savan. (Note: It was subsequently made into an R-rated move with Susan Sarandon and James Spader. In other words, not for kids.)

There came a point in the story which described the main character’s living room with such detail—down to the angle of the sunlight hitting the coffee table—that I clearly remember thinking, “How did Glenn know this? That is totally out of my league. I could never know a tenth of that about any character or setting.”

So when circumstances compelled me to start writing The Gollywhopper Games, I was haunted by that memory. Could I possibly know enough? Could I accomplish this? I had to try.

Skip a bunch of years and countless revisions until the day I finally got my initial editorial letter. Point #1: cut 20% from the book. Then came a sustained period of hyperventilation, followed by a furious review of the line notes. There it was, the same note probably a dozen times: YOU need to know this, but do WE?

I had to laugh. I’d been so worried I couldn’t measure up, I’d gone overboard with detail. TMI. I came to realize the story didn’t need all that information because I’d successfully conveyed the essentials in subtext, in nuance, and in the choices I made for my characters. In developing their backstories, I could predict their behaviors and their dialogue. It wasn’t important that my readers knew how I came to those conclusions; more so, that they happened.

Just last week, I participated in an SCBWI-sponsored, one-time critique group. As I was going through the first chapters, I had a sense of reverse deja vu. This time, I was the one, making the same comment time and again: YOU need to know this, but do WE? 
Thanks, Virginia Duncan. You taught me well.


  1. This is awesome. I bet you had plenty of ideas on HOW to get those cuts done smoothly, too.


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