Why Do What You Do?

Today is the day that I announce the winner of Not Without My Father, a memoir by the awesome Andra Watkins. As usual, I’m going to make you wait for that announcement until the end, unless you prefer to be devious and skip ahead.

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Jordie’s personal plea. But he has to work here, so please use your own judgment.

Last week, I watched the 3D animated movie, Rise of the Guardians (DreamWorks 2012). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that movie. Maybe close to nine or ten times. As usual, I was touched by the mission of each Guardian (Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Guardian-in-training Jack Frost): to guard the children of the world, and especially guard precious aspects of childhood like wonder and fun.

rise_of_the_guardians_new_poster

I’ve written other posts about this movie, so I won’t go into the plot. You can look here for that. Suffice it to say that the movie caused me to think about my audience and why I write. The intended audience of my current project—teens—is a lot older than the audience for this movie. Still I have to ask myself: Am I a Guardian? If so, what, if anything, do I guard? Why is that important?

To answer that, I thought back over the recent encounters I’ve had with teens, many of which have been of the chauffeuring variety.

Teen: Going to game night? Can I catch a ride with you?
Me: Sure.
Friend: Can you pick up Caitlyn from school? She’s sick and needs to leave early. I can’t leave the office.
Me: Sure.

These car trips with teens have fostered long discussions of videogames or the kinds of videogames I would write if I had the opportunity to do so. (RPGs, by the way.) We’ve also talked about movies and books we’ve liked or disliked. Yet even the most innocuous conversation with a teen can sometimes lead to revelations of heartfelt needs as trust is earned. So these experiences reminded me that I’m a Guardian of their trust and the need for authenticity. This includes being open and real (in appropriate, parent-approved ways of course). And of course trust and authenticity need to spill over into what I write. I will quickly lose their trust if I’m a big, fat fake writing stories I don’t believe in, starring characters with the emotional depth of a raisin.

I also thought about my reason for reading, which dovetails with my reason for writing. I can tell you that in three words: I enjoy it. I like to be taken to different worlds to meet people I will grow to care about deeply. An author who thoroughly entertains me is deeply treasured.

Fantasy Journey

Who wouldn’t want the I-treasure-you response from a reader? But my reason for writing is more than just a desire to entertain someone, although I like doing that. No, I write because of the joy of creating something. If a reader enjoys the journey of one of my stories, it’s because I first enjoyed taking it. So, that makes me a Guardian of my own need to create.

I’ve mentioned many times that I usually watch the behind-the-scenes documentaries of shows or movies. I love hearing about the process of creating these works. The excitement of those involved is very infectious. Each time I see their enthusiasm and love for the material, I can’t wait to return to my own created world. This makes me conscious of the fact that I may someday inspire someone through my creations. (One can only hope.)

Why do you do what you do? Do you consider yourself a Guardian? If so, of what? While you give that some thought, let’s get to the winner of Not Without My Father by Andra Watkins—an author you can trust. But I don’t have to tell you that. 🙂

Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez alw-headshot-blog

That winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Naomi of Bmore Energy!

Congrats, Naomi! Please comment below to confirm!

Rise of the Guardians poster from teaser-trailer.com. Andra Watkins author photo from her website. Fantasy journey image from ipadwallsdepot.com.

Eyes of Wonder

Peter-jackson-250x339In a recent Entertainment Weekly sidebar, when commenting on the 2005 relaunch of Doctor Who, Peter Jackson stated, “If there’s any secret to its resurgence, it’s due to the show’s complete lack of cynicism.” If you’re familiar with Doctor Who, perhaps you know that this show was first launched on the BBC in 1963, but went on hiatus in 1989.

Jackson’s remark struck a chord with me, because I’ve been trying to analyze why I love the show so much. This love grew from childhood, watching Doctor Who on PBS with my dad on Sunday nights. Friends who recently saw some of the older seasons on DVD described them as cheesy or low budget. But I loved them, starting with Tom Baker, because they always took me someplace wonderful. So, when the show returned in 2005, I was more than thrilled, because like the show’s producers, the show has never lost its wonder for me.

Which brings me to the second quote, one from Rise of the Guardians, a 2012 film by DreamWorks Animation. I won’t go into the plot. You can check that out for yourself here. During a scene early in the film, North (St. Claus) asks Jack Frost to name his center. In other words, what ideal or virtue does he bring to the world that he also is willing to safeguard for the sake of the children of the world?

North again

As an object lesson, North hands Jack a set of nesting dolls and has Jack open the dolls until he gets to the center doll—a doll with large blue eyes. This doll represents North’s center: wonder. North then tells Jack:

It is what I was born with, eyes that have only seen the wonder in everything! Eyes that see lights in the trees and magic in the air. This wonder is what I put into the world, and what I protect in children.

As I read Jackson’s comments in EW, I couldn’t help linking his quote with North’s and then reflecting on what my center might be. Let me give you a little background. I grew up reading magazines like Mad and Cracked, magazines famous for their parodies of movies and books. I never met a parody I didn’t like. Sarcasm was my center. It affected my writing. (Some might say infected.) Everything was ripe for mockery.

In my second semester at VCFA, my advisor read my fairy tale parody and shook her head. In her assessment, some of it was good; yet she could see what was missing: wonder. Sure I could write a parody. But did I have the guts to go beyond mockery and produce something original? The thought of doing so was daunting. What if someone mocked me for it later?

Wonder is the antithesis of cynicism. If I have wonder-filled eyes, I see beauty and life in the world, not just the flaws or what makes it ripe for ridicule. That’s why Jackson’s remark jumped off the page at me. Having watched all of the episodes of the relaunched Doctor Who, I can attest to the truth of his statement. If you watch the interviews of anyone connected with the show—actor, writer, producer, lunch lady, makeup crew—you will discern the love—the wonder—he or she sees in it.

So, I’m in an examining mood now. Having chosen to write books for kids, what is my center? I can tell you what I’m working on: wonder. But I need to shrug off some cynicism first. Thankfully there are blog posts like this one by Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, that remind me of the wonder of writing. (One of my classmates brought this article to my attention. Thanks, Rachel.)

What is your center?

For a fun quiz on this question, go here:

Jackson, Peter. “Lord of the Whovians.” Entertainment Weekly #1252. 29 Mar. 2013: 36-37. Print.

Rise of the Guardians screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on a story by William Joyce. Directed by Peter Ramsey. © 2013 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C. All rights reserved.