More than twenty-five years passed from Uncle Abe's letters recalling his boyhood escapades to the publication of Duck Dreams: City Boy to Farmer Boy. How could that be?
Part of it is that I had to learn to write for children. I had published numerous articles about children's books and writers for children. Two books ate up a good deal of time and energy in those twenty-five years. One was for adults, urging parents to read to their children and recommending books likely to engage children. This book, which went into three editions, was a collaboration with Professor Margaret Mary Kimmel. Maggie taught children's literature in the Library Science Department; I taught it in the English Department. The second book, Short Takes, was a collection of stories I compiled for middle-grade children. I chose the stories, recruited the writers--Lois Lowry, Philippa Pearce, Robert Cormier, E. L. Konigsburg, and others--and I wrote introductions to each story. But this wasn't teaching me to write for children.
About when Short Takes came out, I took a key step that would prepare me to write for children. I joined Sally Alexander's critique group. No one could have helped me more--Sally is herself a marvelous writer. As a critic and teacher, she is unparalleled. More on our group--its leader and helpful participants--in the next blog entry.