What better way to start the National Day of Writing than by writing a blog post while traveling on a train to a Teachers College Reading and Writing Project 95th Saturday Reunion in NYC?
In a few hours, the writer Kate DiCamillo will give the morning keynote address titled “Home Again- Finding Our Way Through Stories.” I have written about Kate before, and I have admired her ability to combine unusual elements in a story, for example, a squirrel, a vacuum, and poetry in her Newbery winning children’s book Flora and Ulysses.
In triangulating three such different elements, DiCamillo did have to find a way through her story exactly the way the preposition through is defined:
“moving in one side and going out the other side of”
Reading through a story means moving into one side of the story -its setting, conflict, and character’s point-of-view, and going out the other see of the story arc and resolution of conflict. Reading “through” a story is enjoyable.
Getting “through” a story is not as pleasurable.
Yet, I often hear the phrase, “have to get through” as if through means having to endure or having to struggle or trudge.
I have been guilty in the past of stating how I have to get “through” a literature unit, feeling like I am dragging students “through” a novel, a test of their endurance and of mine. Now, when I hear teachers expressing a desire to get “through” a unit, I cringe.
I am certain no author intended that experience for the reader.
What an author wants is what is expressed by readers who are engaging in The Great American Read.
I have been following The Great American Read, an 18-part-series on PBS that features 100 of the best-loved novels read in America as rated in a national survey (see checklist).
These novels represent many different genres and are not limited to novels written by American (a point of contention for the misnomer “America’s novel”)
This is a book popularity contest, and anyone can vote daily on their choice of book. The television episodes feature interviews with readers including some celebrities or literary critics.
(Full disclosure: I vote regularly for E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.)
What I am struck by, is the number of people who begin to discuss a favorite book by saying, “I must have read this book…” and then proceed to give a number: a dozen times, 25 times, even 100 times.
These readers are not trying to “get through” a novel;. They are wallowing, lingering, and finding something new in their rereads. Their “through” experience is one worth repeating.
Of course, this means that those teachers who discourage students from rereading a book should take note and reconsider. In The Great American Read, the practice of rereading a favorite novel is celebrated.
The Great American Read concludes this coming week (10/23/18) when the number one book will be announced. Selecting a “winner” by popular acclaim will certainly disappoint some viewers who will have, as Kate’s speech promises, found their way through a story.
Which means (as I approach NYC) that I have also triangulated on this National Day of Writing: the preposition “through,” The Great American Read, and Kate DiCamillo.
That is the answer to the question in the hashtag #whyIwrite ?
I write to make connections.
Happy National Day of Writing, 2018!